"Lowe" Blow: New York Mets Turn to Oliver Perez After Atlanta Snatches Starter

Adam Fier@haveNOfierCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2009

Having now missed out on signing Derek Lowe, who agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with the Atlanta Braves, the New York Mets must now turn to plan B to fill out their starting rotation.

Plan B is looking more and more like Oliver Perez, the highly talented, highly erratic southpaw who spent the last two-and-a-half seasons in Flushing.  Perez, just 26, went into the offseason seeking a new contract in the ballpark of five years, $75 million, numbers the Mets initially saw as a means to end their marriage with the lefty.

While Perez, who is represented by Scott Boras, is now unlikely to yield a contract of that nature, he can now put some pressure on the Mets and general manager Omar Minaya, who have a gaping hole in their rotation behind Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine.

They've already added veteran right-hander Tim Redding to fill the fifth spot in their rotation.  However, the void left by Perez has yet to be filled, and now, ironically, it may be Perez himself to fill it.

Reports are out that Minaya has already extended a three-year, $30 million offer to Perez.  However, it is unlikely those numbers will get the job done.

Guaranteeing a fourth year and likely $12 million a season would give the Mets a better chance of bringing Perez back, but there is skepticism Perez is worth such a hefty price tag.

While his potential and ability has rarely been questioned, his mental makeup often is, as Perez is as likely to go out and throw a no-hitter as he is to allow nine runs in the first inning of a ballgame.

His focus has always been an issue, as he constantly finds himself among the league leaders in walks.  While these problems didn't hold him back in 2007, as he won 15 games in his first full season in New York, he regressed last year, going only 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA.  In contrast, in 2007, Perez was 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA.

Still carrying a career record below .500 (56-60), Perez has tremendous upside and has proven he can succeed in Queens, as most Mets will always remember his effort in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS, as well as his success against the better competition, notably the Braves, Phillies, and Yankees.

The argument can also be made that bringing back Perez would send the Mets into the 2009 season with virtually the same team that completed a second consecutive collapse in 2008, with the exception being the additions to the bullpen.

While adding Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz was important, there are still pressing needs management needs to address, mainly the starting rotation and the middle of their batting order.

Should the Mets ultimately decide Perez is out of their price range, the options become more and more uncertain, as Randy Wolf and perhaps even the oft-injured Ben Sheets become options.  Minaya has also yet to rule out bringing back Pedro Martinez, although with the signing of Redding, that seems less and less likely.

Of course, if the Mets do in fact fail to sign Perez and turn to a cheaper alternative to fill out their rotation, the questions will continue to rise regarding Manny Ramirez, who is still looking for a taker with less than a month before pitchers and catchers are expected to report to Spring Training.

Although having Perez back in the rotation would keep the 2009 Mets resembling the 2008 team that collapsed, turning to a lesser option could keep the team from even establishing a first place lead to relinquish in September.