The case of right-hander R.A. Dickey is a curious one. He is 38 years old, and until his recent union with the New York Mets has never shown the ability to have sustained success.
However, with his knuckleball fluttering around, Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award in 2012, leading the league in strikeouts. He became the first Mets pitcher to win 20 or more games since 1990 and looked practically unbeatable for most of the season.
Dickey's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2013 season. So the Mets are in a precarious situation as the Winter Meetings take place in Nashville, Tenn. They have been trying to work out an extension to keep Dickey in Queens for the foreseeable future.
But the team has also been looking at trade options, hoping that the veteran's value is high enough to return top prospects in a potential deal.
Right now, Dickey would join Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey in the rotation. (Mike Pelfrey was non-tendered on Friday).
As difficult as it may be, if the Mets trade Dickey, someone will have to replace him. The Mets don't have much money to spend on free agents. So just who could the Mets tab to take Dickey's place if they should trade him? Let's take a look.
Mets fans are no doubt anxiously awaiting the arrival of Zack Wheeler to Citi Field. Originally drafted sixth overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2009, he was acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal in 2011. Wheeler, 22, was rated the 35th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season.
Over three minor league seasons, Wheeler had a 3.49 ERA. He struck out 148 batters between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
He may not be ready to join the rotation out of spring training, but it may not be long before he makes his big league debut. The mouths of Mets fans everywhere have been watering with the idea of having Wheeler and Matt Harvey in the same rotation.
That dream could become a reality in 2013.
It's no secret the Mets have a limited budget to spend on free agents. And they certainly have a number of positions of need (outfield, catcher, bullpen, etc.). So, while they are unlikely to pursue free agents like Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, there are a number of veteran pitchers on the market to whom the Mets could offer low-risk/high-reward contracts.
Pitchers such as John Lannan, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia could all be relative bargains as they seek to rebuild their careers. Any of these, if healthy, could provide the Mets with a veteran presence that would be missing with the potential loss of R.A. Dickey.
A dark horse, out-of-the-box possibility could be right-hander Bobby Parnell. There have been times when the Mets felt that Parnell would be their closer. But after five years in the big leagues, Parnell has only 14 saves to his credit.
Yet, Parnell's stats are not all that bad. He has a lifetime ERA of 3.83 and has more than 230 strikeouts. Plus, his ninth-inning ERA is 3.17. He has electric stuff, with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a nasty slider.
Parnell is no stranger to the starting rotation either. After the Mets drafted him in the ninth round in 2005, he spent the majority of his time as a starter in the Mets' farm system. It was not until he reached Triple-A that he shifted to the bullpen.
If he can find a third pitch to go along with his heater and slider, Parnell may not be such a bad option to place in the rotation.
Last week, the Mets decided not to tender Mike Pelfrey a contract, making him a free agent. The tall right-hander is recovering from Tommy John surgery, after making only three starts in 2012. There is hope that he will be ready to resume pitching early in 2013.
The Mets could decide to bring Pelfrey back on a low-base, incentive-laden contract. Pelfrey has spent his entire seven-year career in Queens.
But it is prudent to note that pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery tend to pitch at or above their previous levels after their recovery. Pelfrey had some serious upside during his time with the Mets. He was drafted ninth overall in 2005 and was ranked among Baseball America's top-100 prospects in 2006 and 2007.
Besides, he is not that far removed from his best season as a pro. In 2010, he won 15 games and had a 3.66 ERA. He'll be 29 in January and could provide the Mets with a solid presence in the back of the rotation.
Raise your hand if you remember Jenrry Mejia. It seems like the young right-hander has been forgotten by the Mets' organization and their fans. But it's hard to understand why.
The Mets signed Mejia as an amateur free agent in 2007. Since then, he has excelled in the minor leagues. . Over parts of six seasons, Mejia has a lifetime 2.89 ERA with almost eight strikeouts per nine innings. He has electric stuff, and he's still just 23.
The problem is, Mejia has been unable to translate his minor league success to the major league level, though he's had limited opportunities. Mejia made his major league debut in 2010. In 39 innings, he had a 4.63 ERA, with a 22-20 strikeout-to-walk in 33 appearances (three starts).
He returned to the big leagues as a September call-up in 2012, adding five more games (three starts) to his resume. But to repeat, he is still just 23 years old and has a ton of upside. Plug him in a rotation that includes Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and over time, that could help ease the potential loss of R.A. Dickey.
Jeremy Hefner, was with the Mets for most of 2012, appearing in 26 games, starting half of them. The 26-year-old right-hander was acquired from the San Diego Padres in a waiver claim prior to the 2012 season.
He pitched better than his 5.03 ERA would indicate, striking out 62 in 93 innings. He was a steady option for manager Terry Collins either as a spot starter or long reliever.
His name might not be as flashy or recognizable as some of the others on this list. But he may have shown Collins and the Mets enough to get an opportunity to be a mainstay in the rotation in 2013.