(Bumped from FanPosts. -- James)
At some point this off-season, we Amazin' Avenue denizens will have our annual Amazin' Avenue Off-Season Plan contest. I start thinking about it way too early, but you know what? The team has the opportunity to do something, right now, which could make 2013 a better place for us fans.
If Johan isn't healthy, shut him down. But if he is?
Move him to the bullpen.
Yes, I think Johan Santana should get the John Smoltz treatment.
I realize that relief pitchers aren't nearly as valuable as SPs, and that "closer" is likely an arbitrary distinction. But the Mets have a few problems here which won't be solved in 2013 -- unless this happens (and it works).
Problem 1: Johan was really good for about 16 starts and then... not so much. Through June, he had a .618 OPS against, 93 strikeouts in 98 IP, and nearly a 3:1 K:BB ratio. He was homer-prone -- 9 HR in those 98 IP -- but four of them came at Yankee Stadium in one game. If you stop his season after the no-hitter, the line is sick:
68 IP, 68 strikeouts, 21 BB, .568 OPS against, or a 1.029 WHIP.
It's probably a mix of fatigue and wear-and-tear, and we can't keep throwing him out there like this.
There's a chance he'd actually be better, too. Johan will be season age 34 next year and, assuming he can handle the different preparation etc. required to be a RP/closer, there's evidence that guys can make the switch and improve. Check out Smoltz:
Smoltz, as a starter, age 22-32: 7.9 K/9. 2.8 BB/9, 1.174 WHIP, averaging 214 IP/year
Smoltz, as a RP, ages 34-37: 9.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 1.016 WHIP, averaging 71 IP/year.
Problem 2: And man, the Mets could use that in the pen. Our bullpen is terrible. FrankyFrank has 4.9 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9. Rauch has 5.8 K/9. Ramon Ramirez has a 5.1 BB/9 and only a 7.5 K/9 to go with it. Parnell has solid peripherals but there's something not-so-good about his .338 career BABIP against.
When K-Rod was here, he put up a 10 K/9 and 4 BB/9 display in about three and a half years. There's no reason to think Johan couldn't put up numbers or better.
Problem 3: There's no great solution on the horizon.
Both Rauch and Ramirez are free agents, which is a mixed blessing -- they're probably getting about market rate for what they provide, and we'd have to replace them somehow. Internal options like Josh Edgin, Elvin Ramirez, Manny Acosta, Jeremy Hefner, and Pedro Beato are not solutions and are in most cases already here. Spending money on a Proven Closer seems stupid given the Mets outfield needs, and while losing Rauch and Ramirez will free up cash, it's not like we can get a much better pen with that money.
On the other hand, we have a couple of ways to fill his starting pitching spot. When Dillon Gee comes back, we'd have a top four of Dickey, Niese, Gee, and Harvey. Resign Chris Young (for less than what Rauch makes, I'd bet) and maybe give Mike Pelfrey a minor league deal (which may not be welcome by his agent). Promote Jenrry Mejia -- in fact, he can be promoted now in order to alleviate Harvey's and Young's workload. Sign a project-type guy for a few million with incentives. And promote Zack Wheeler in August. Lots of options.
Problem 4: No lefties.
Tim Byrdak was overused because he was the only lefty in the pen. Edgin is now being abused. We need another lefty. Hmm. Oh hi, Johan!
Yes, from a WAR-dollars perspective, we'd be capping his value at about $6 million if we moved him to the pen. But that's what he's been worth, roughly, this year, too. If we're likely to get that value from him either way, the makeup of this team makes me want Johan to be our closer in 2013. Start that process now.