If there's one thing the Mets are lacking heading into the season, it's depth in their starting rotation. As well as things have been going for Johan Santana in spring training, it is far from certain that he will be able to make thirty-plus starts. Behind him in the rotation are, of course, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee.
Should Santana or any of his fellow starting pitchers go down to injury, even in the short term, the Mets would turn to Chris Schwinden, Miguel Batista, or Jeremy Hefner. Either of the two could be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter, but there's a bit of a problem when one team has too many of that type of pitcher in its rotation on a regular basis.
As Pouliot points out, the rules governing contracts would allow the Mets to cut ties with Pelfrey and only be responsible for twenty-five percent of his salary. Pelfrey is slated to earn $5.7 million this season, which means the Mets would could pay him $1.4 million and let him walk. The Mets could save $4.3 million this year, but in doing so they would deal a significant blow to the depth of a rotation that's already startlingly shallow.
If Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, or Jenrry Mejia dominate in the minors this year, the Mets could have additional depth much sooner than expected. But none of the four should be pushed into action any sooner than they are ready, and keeping Pelfrey in town makes it a lot less tempting - or necessary - to call one of them up too early.
It might sound like Pelfrey's making far too much money for his production, but he was valued at or above his 2012 salary in three of his past four seasons by Fangraphs. And it's not like there's a long line of reliable starting pitchers still waiting to sign for $4.3 million or less this season.
Even if Roy Oswalt called up Sandy Alderson and offered his services on a one-year, $1 million deal, the Mets would be wise to keep Pelfrey and assign Gee to Buffalo. Most of the rest of the remaining free-agent starters are either retired, thinking of retiring, or physically incapable of pitching.
The Mets could very well finish in fifth place this year, but rolling the dice even further with the rotation by letting Pelfrey go does not make sense.