Mets exploring pitching options – eyeing several free agents, trade with LA

Carl Pavano 1 polaroidAccording to multiple industry sources, the Mets have expressed interest in several free agent starting pitchers including Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Chris Young, and Shaun Marcum, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.

In addition, Davidoff says the Mets are exploring a trade for one of Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang from the Dodgers – Los Angeles reportedly began shopping both of them during the Winter Meetings.

In regards to Pavano, Davidoff notes he held serious reservations about a possible second stint with the Yankees two winters ago, and so it remains to be seen if he’d consider joining the Mets now.

No matter who the Mets choose for their rotation, Davidoff says a decision is unlikely to be made until after the new year.

For Michael Baron's thoughts on these pitchers, click here...

Michael Baron, Contributor

Pavano has had one of the strangest pitching careers in recent memory. He has historically pitched to a lot of contact but is a control artist who limits bases on balls which in turn limits the damage allowed. When he’s right, Pavano can be one of the more solid and dependable right-handers in the game. But I’m not sure how he might fare back in New York, considering how badly his first go-around was in this city with the Yankees.

Liriano is a hard throwing left-handed pitcher who, while he strikes out a lot of batters, walks a lot of batters as well. He is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher who will mix in an occasional change-up. He held left-handed hitters to a .221 average and allowed just one home run against them in 2012 – he’s only allowed six home runs in his career against left-handed pitching. He put together a phenomenal season in 2006, but has battled arm injury and consistency problems since.

Harang and Marcum are very similar pitchers – like Pavano, both pitch to contact but they throw strikes which helps them remain effective. They don’t strikeout many hitters, but they limit their walks and do a pretty good job of keeping the ball in the park. Marcum is coming off an elbow injury which cost him two months in the middle of last season, and pitched to a 4.32 ERA in eight starts after coming back. But he was on his way to another good year and could have easily had double digit wins for the fourth time in five years if not for his stint on the disabled list.

As we learned last year, Young showed he was a six-inning pitcher with very little margin for error. He relies on commanding the top of the strike zone with a below average fastball, and when that pitch falls below the letters, he finds big trouble. But when he’s above the letters, he induces soft contact in the air and can get quick outs. He admitted all year he was still in the process of recovering from shoulder surgery in May, 2011, and so I wonder if his stamina might improve with a normal winter routine and a normal Spring Training.

Capuano has certainly proved his injury problems are behind him. He had a spectacular season in his first year with the Dodgers, throwing more innings than he had since 2006, nearly topping the 200 inning mark. He showed an increase in stamina over his prior season with Mets – he had a lot of trouble exceeding six innings in 2011 but exceeded that mark in 20 of his 33 starts for Los Angeles last season. He keeps himself in fantastic shape, is one of the smartest pitchers in the game, and is developing into one of the nicest stories in baseball as well.

Marcum and Harang offer the most consistent track records, and therefore would be the safest bets for the Mets to take. Neither are aces and Harang would come at a cost of both money and players in trade, but either would be very strong fifth starters in an already improving rotation.

Statistics and information on these pitchers...

Carl Pavano

Stats: Pavano, who turns 37 in January, went 2-5 with a 6.00 ERA in only 11 starts in 2012, allowing 80 hits with eight walks and nine home runs in 63 innings. He missed most of the season with a bone spur in his right humerus bone.

Contract: Pavano just completed a two-year, $16.5 million contract he signed with the Twins before the 2011 season.

Francisco Liriano

Stats: Liriano, 29, went 6-12 in 34 starts last season with a 5.34 ERA with 87 walks in 156 2/3 innings for the White Sox and Twins.

Contract: Liriano just completed a one-year, $5.5 million contract he signed with the Twins before the 2012 season.

Shaun Marcum

Stats: Marcum, 31, went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts for the Brewers in 2012, having allowed 116 hits, 41 walks and 16 home runs in 124 innings. He missed two months with an elbow injury.

Contract: Marcum just completed a one-year $7.7 million contract he signed before the 2012 season.

Chris Capuano

Stats: Capuano, 34, went 12-12 with a 3.72 ERA in 33 starts for the Dodgers in 2012, allowing 188 hits, 54 walks and 25 home runs in 198 innings.

Contract: Capuano just completed the first year of a two-year, $10 million contract he signed with the Dodgers before the 2012 season. He will earn $6 million in 2013 and there is an $8 million mutual option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout.

Aaron Harang

Stats: Harang, 34, went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts for the Dodgers in 2012, allowing 167 hits, 85 walks and 14 home runs in 179 2/3 innings.

Contract: Harang just completed the first year of a two-year, $12 million contract he signed with the Dodgers before the 2012 season. He will earn $7 million in 2013 and there is an $7-8 million mutual option for 2014 with a $2 million buyout.

Chris Young

Stats: Young, 33, went 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 115 innings over 20 starts for the Mets in 2012.

Contract: Young signed a Minor League contract with the Mets last March, and had his contract purchased by the Mets in June.