9:44 am Jan. 24, 2013
With just a few weeks until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the New York Mets have finally added to the group they'll be bringing to Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The team agreed to a one-year contract with starter Shaun Marcum, becoming the final major league team to add a major league free agent.
On a short-term deal, Marcum is a solid pickup for the Mets, both in terms of how he can help the team, and what a healthy Marcum allows them to do with their young pitchers who aren't quite ready.
But Marcum is less a replacement for R.A. Dickey atop the rotation, and more a potential upgrade to Chris Young, last year's fifth starter for much of the season.
When Marcum has been healthy, he has been reliably effective, much like Young. His career E.R.A.+ of 111 is slightly better than Young's 108; and over the past three seasons, Marcum's E.R.A.+ has held remarkably steady, at 115, 111 and 111.
There are some warning signs within Marcum's performance—an uptick in his walk rate, decreasing effectiveness against left-handed hitters, and an increase in line-drive rate—but he was still more than effective enough to be a useful rotation member in 2012.
What he wasn't in 2012 was healthy, pitching a total of 124 innings in 2012, comparable to Young's 115 innings. He was out of action from June 14 through August 25 with an elbow injury. And the deal with the Mets won't become official until he passes his physical, which is no certainty.
But if he can maintain his health, Marcum's five-pitch repertoire should slot well into the team's 2013 plans. He can pitch behind Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee, a solid rotation top to bottom.
Zack Wheeler, the team's top pitching prospect with just 33 innings above Double-A, can develop in Triple-A instead of being rushed to New York. And the Mets can use Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia as either members of an ultra-thin bullpen, or let them pitch as starters in Triple-A as well.
Marcum isn't the type of acquisition who can vault the Mets into contention. But with Scott Hairston signing with the Chicago Cubs, the Mets are about to start preparing for the 2013 season without the best pitcher or outfielder on a 2012 team that won 74 games.
At least they have a full rotation now.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Nets didn't have a letdown after Monday's win against the Knicks, winning at Minnesota, 91-83 Wednesday night.
Ahead of Thursday's matchup with the Celtics, coach Mike Woodson signaled that he intends to play Carmelo Anthony at small forward, and move away from a two point guard lineup that helped the Knicks dominate early this season.
General manager Jerome de Bontin spoke of the team's lack of a coach, and on numerous other matters, in this interview.
Seton Hall got a badly needed win at home over South Florida, 55-47.