The 2011-2012 offseason was pretty damn quiet for the New York Mets. Aside from a small trade and the signing of a couple of mediocre relief pitchers, there was really nothing in terms of player movement for the New York Mets faithful to get excited about. That finally changed this afternoon. The New York Mets’ decision to extend Jonathon Niese to a five year deal worth $25.5 million is probably the best move this organization has made since the acquisition of top prospect Zack Wheeler at last season’s trade deadline.
Niese is no stud, but that doesn’t dampen the beauty of this deal in my eyes. A quick review of his stats supports my belief that Niese can easily become a very good No. 3 starter for the Mets. His career FIP of 3.77 shows that he has pitched better than his 4.39 ERA suggests. He also induces a ton of groundballs (49.1%) while racking up his share of whiffs (7.65). I’m pulling this off the top of my head, but those peripherals sound a little bit like another left-handed pitcher who just signed a five year deal worth $65 million this offseason. His name is John Danks. Now the two are not in the same class at the moment. First of all, Niese has to show that he can produce over 200 innings – the golden standard for “workhorse” status. He also has to start posting real ERAs – not theoretical ones – in the 3.70 range.
If Jonathon Niese can take the next step and set up shop in the John Danks class over the next year or two, the New York Mets will look like geniuses…or maybe just a group of smart people. Even if he settles in a little closer to a No. 4 starter, I still think fans can be happy about this deal. Just look at the types of prices mediocre starting pitchers – let alone lefties – have been securing over the years. Now compare the contract of one of those guys to the deal that Niese – at least a shade better than mediocre – just received. Point, New York Mets.
When the New York Mets do something good, I’ll probably tweet about it @craigmwilliams.