Should the Mets Trade for a Starting Pitcher?

There have recently been some murmurs going around the Orange and Blue watercoolers that the Mets are looking for a starting pitcher, with names like Cliff Lee and Kevin Millwood being thrown around. Although the Mets are within a reasonable striking distance of first place in the NL East, there are a few things to analyze here. First, what is a weakness the Mets can try to improve? Here are some relevant rankings for the Mets in terms of place in the National League:

Team ERA: 6th
Team xFIP: 14th
Team FIP: 10th

So the Mets may be getting a little lucky with their pitching performance thus far, but we also need to remember that those numbers include some terrible pitching from former starter Oliver Perez (now on the DL and in the bullpen upon his return) and John Maine (now on the DL). Here is what looks to be the Mets rotation for the rest of the season with current FIP and rest of season FIP via ZiPS:

Johan Santana: 3.81/3.47
Mike Pelfrey: 3.28/4.00
Jonathon Niese: 3.76/3.98
R.A. Dickey: 3.37/4.66
Hisanori Takahashi: 3.27/No Projection
John Maine: 5.82/4.44

There are some problems with looking at the projections as well. R.A. Dickey is pitching with a completely new regimen and type of knuckleball, so the the outlook may be unfairly pessimistic, and there are no numbers for Takahashi. Either way, this rotation is solid. But what about the offense?

Team wOBA: 13th
Team OBP: 13th
Team SLG: 12th

Not pretty. However, the Mets do hope to get Carlos Beltran back in the near future, and Jose Reyes and Jason Bay will most likely perform better than they have thus far. With a lineup of Reyes / Beltran / Wright / Davis / Bay / Pagan / Barajas / Castillo, the Mets could reasonably have each position player with a wRC+ at ~100 or over. Unfortunately for the Mets, they have to hope for Beltran, Reyes, and Castillo to return to health and form, as well as continued above-average production from Barajas (although Blanco has played extremely well thus far).

Omar Minaya has another month and a half to see where the Mets stand. They probably have a true talent level of about 85 wins or so, but even teams with a true talent level of .500 can get to 88 wins or more. However, if the Mets are within a few games of first place at the end of July, a solid trade can easily push them right into the thick of things. This isn’t to say the Mets should trade Reese Havens, Jenrry Mejia, and Ike Davis for Cliff Lee. In fact, it may be more prudent of the Mets to move John Maine and Takahashi to the bullpen and pick up another solid arm without as big of a pricetag. Jake Westbrook would be a good fit; he’s a groundball pitcher who has been hurt value-wise by his homers per fly balls. A dose of Citi Field may be exactly what he needs. He’ll get a chance to audition for the Mets when he faces them in Cleveland tonight.

Unsurprisingly, the answer to the title of this article is, “It depends.” Omar Minaya may have the green light to pull the trigger, but picking up too big of a gun may prove pyrrhic in the longrun.

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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat