Maybe The Mets Should Re-Sign Niese
At some point today, Jon Niese is going to hold a workout for teams interested in signing him. Niese needs to do this workout because: (1) he’s coming off knee surgery; and (2) he was terrible last year. Absolutely terrible. And yet, despite that, the Mets should be interested in re-signing him.
Let’s get the obvious reasons why the Mets shouldn’t be interested out of the way first. He’s a malcontent that would likely complain about the weather in San Diego. He always has an excuse for when he fails. He’d blame the pitch the catcher for the pitch he called. He’d blame the designer of the ballpark for the configuration of the outfield walls. He’d blame God for the wind patterns. He’d do all of that before admitting he hung a pitch that was hit into the second deck. More than any of this, Niese was just horrible last year. Typically, you don’t want players like this.
That is unless they are really cheap, and they have something to prove.
Niese should be both. Working in reverse, Niese, perhaps for the first time in his major league career, has something to prove. He’s coming off a year with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.587 WHIP. Quite possibly, he was the worst pitcher in all of baseball, certainly the worst starting pitcher. Because Niese is who he is, he’ll probably give you a million reasons why this happened. I’m sure he’ll say PNC Park was not suited for him, or Ray Searage was not as good a pitching coach as Dan Warthen. The Pirates probably didn’t shift as well as the Mets did. He’ll certainly blame his knee injury. At least with the knee injury, there may be an actual valid excuse, and it could be reason to buy low on Niese.
Before being traded to the Pirates, Niese was 61-61 with a 3.91 ERA, a 1.361 WHIP, and a 95 ERA+. Basically, he was a fifth starter who constantly tricked the Mets into thinking he could be more than that. It’s partially why Sandy Alderson gave him a contract extension. It’s why the Pirates traded Neil Walker to get him. Maybe he fulfills that promise one day. Likely, he doesn’t. Still, Niese has already shown he’s a quality major league pitcher.
He’s a major league pitcher that is going to come cheap. With teams seemingly being devoid of interest in him during the offseason, Niese is likely going to garner little more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Essentially, Niese is going to go to a team where he has an opportunity to either make the team out of Spring Training or be one of the first call-ups should a pitcher get injured or be ineffective. That being said, signing Niese is theoretically no different than the Mets recent signing of Tom Gorzelanny, or back in 2006, when they signed Darren Oliver.
For the Mets, Niese could be an intriguing bullpen arm who surprisingly showed during the 2015 postseason, he can get the big out. He may have a second act to his career as a reliever much in the same way Oliver Perez has. By focusing on one or two pitches, he could be a reliable bullpen arm like Oliver. Or maybe, he could just be more starting pitching depth for a Mets team relying on three pitchers coming off season ending surgery and two unproven starters behind them.
Maybe just maybe, the Mets should offer Niese a minor league deal to come back to the team. It isn’t the worst idea in the world.