Gut reaction to the news that Jason Marquis signed with the Nationals was relief. That's one less overrated player for the Mets to consider acquiring. Let the Nats hand out three years and $30 million to a pitcher with a career K/BB of 1.5 coming off his best season. However, upon receiving word of the reasonable terms of the contract (two years, $15 million) I decided it would not have been an awful signing and, as an added bonus, might have afforded the Mets a reprieve from MSM members due to Marquis's hometown hero story. Two hundred innings of league average pitching is valuable, and given the price-per-win model Marquis would be a nice bet to be worth his contract if he played for a team with average financial resources. The contract would have been slightly better for the Mets compared to the average team, given their deep pockets. One of the better free agent pitchers still available, Joel Pineiro, is quite similar to Marquis. Negotiations with the former should be affected by the contract signed by the latter. The report that Pineiro is the Mets' top free agent starting pitching target is not surprising or altogether terrible at this point.
Both Pineiro and Marquis are 31 years-old, have trouble missing bats and are adept at inducing groundballs. Pineiro experienced a sharp increase in groundball % this season, which was the recipe for his ~5 WAR 2009. It's likely he will regress but there is evidence suggesting that newfound groundball ability is sustainable. He has decidedly better control, which separates him from Marquis and accounts for the more favorable projection. CHONE projects a 4.37 ERA (2.4 WAR) for Pineiro and a 4.60 ERA (1.8 WAR) for Marquis. Considering this, maybe a two year, $18 million offer would be enough to sign Type B free agent Pineiro. He is definitely better than John Maine and Oliver Perez and probably slightly better than Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese.
Shaky infield defense is a documented problem for the Mets and a defensive upgrade at second base would be nice if Pineiro is signed. Even if Luis Castillo is starting on Opening Day, a groundball pitcher is generally preferable to a flyball pitcher. More double plays and fewer extra base hits and home runs are some of the benefits. Signing Pineiro and Ben Sheets (the most attractive injury-risk stud pitcher left) would upgrade the rotation at a reasonable price with no long-term entanglements. How does this look for rotation depth: Santana-Sheets-Pineiro-Pelfrey-Niese-Maine-Perez.