Why would I be less then enthusiastic about Odalis Perez, who has the 2nd best ERA of any free agent starter over the past three seasons, if would become a member of the New York Mets? The guy is the youngest free agent starting pitcher out there and he is a lefty to boot, yet interest on him is lukewarm at best overall. Maybe people are laying low in the weeds, but when a bargain shows itself, teams usually show interest. Especially small market teams that live off of bargains. His previous employer does not appear to have any intentions of bringing him back nor do they appear poised to offer the left hander arbitration for some bizarre reason. The Dodgers are not exactly set in their rotation either and seem perfectly happy to move on from Perez. There are also whispers of Perez having elbow problems and the fact that he benefited from pitching in Dodger Stadium does not exactly enthrall people either. He has been picked as one of the top values of the off season by Tom Verducci, but he is relegated to being team’s third or fourth fall back options. Something here does not add up here.
Perez does have some things that people are scared about. Despite pitching in Dodger Stadium, he has the propensity to allow quite a few homeruns. He gave up 12 in 324 at bats in Dodger Stadium while surrendering 14 on the road in 397 at bats. He has averaged surrendering 25 homeruns per year despite pitching half the time in a non-homer friendly environment. In 2004, lefties actually hit .277 against him while he performed better against righties holding them to a .241 average. Away from Dodger Stadium, he is sporting a 4.10 ERA over the past three years (most of the damage was done in 2003) and people are most likely afraid that may be the real Odalis Perez that they may be getting if he pitches away from Dodger Stadium and not the guy who posted the 3.26 overall ERA in 2004 and the 3.00 overall ERA in 2003. His K/BB ratio has dipped from 4.08 to 3.07 to 2.91 (which is still good, but in decline none the less) over the past three years. Odalis has also never averaged 100 pitches per game in his career and posted a career low 91 pitches per game average in 2004, which does not do any good to quiet the whispers about his elbow. To fuel some more doubt on Odalis, people also question his work ethic and commitment. One would assume that a guy with his credentials, age, and potential salary demands would have him drawing the same type of buzz that Matt Clement and Carl Pavano have been drawing.
Odalis does have plenty of things going for him though. He has exceptional control as evidenced by his paltry 128 walks over the past three years and despite not averaging over 91 pitchers per game, he averaged pitching 6+ innings per start. He can get the ball into the 90's and has the tools to become a tremendous pitcher. He posted a 3.00 and a 3.21 overall ERA in two of the three past seasons. Over the past three seasons, he's held opponents to a .685 OPS and a .247 BAA.
What the Mets need to come away with this off season if they pick up a pitcher is a guy that can slot into the #1 or #2 spot. The Mets need a power pitcher who will pick up some K's. The thing that speaks volumes about Odalis more than his numbers whether they are good or bad is the extreme lack of interest in him. A young lefty pitcher who figures to fetch about $6 million per year has little interest. Despite not racking up wins, he still had some solid numbers for a young kid. Instead of being at the top of everyone's list like Carl Pavano, he is mere afterthought in everyone's mind. Maybe it is because of his terrible playoff appearances against the Cardinals and that is fresh in everyone's mind, but for whatever reason, people are not excited about him. Jerry Crasnick listed him as the 11th most desirable free agent pitcher despite putting up better numbers than just about everyone. He was behind Matt Morris, Russ Oritz, Derek Lowe, Eric Milton, and John Leiber. Wouldn't he figure to be a guy that a small market team would be all over if he was such a bargain? If the Mets were to sign him it certainly would not a disaster, but I do not think he will have much of an impact. I'll lump him into the Hidalgo category and would rather see the Mets take care of that fifth spot in house and see if Petit, Soler, or Keppel can take over if anyone falters by the All-Star break. He does not scream front end of the rotation to me and the Mets have enough #3's. All in all, I'd rather save the money spent on him and go all out after someone that would fit the team better. I like the way Omar leaves no stone unturned and the way he checks out every available option, but Perez would certainly not rank in my top five of off season acquisitions for the Mets rotation.
NYF: Which of your fellow Mets' farmhands would you say has the highest upside, among the guys you've played with?
Hietpas: The most dominating guys I've played with are Blake McGinley and Yusmeiro Petit. They just knock your socks off! It's awesome to watch them both pitch. They simply dominate while not even throwing in the 90's. They both change speeds and locate their pitches really well. It is a lot of fun to catch them, I can tell you that.