With ace Johan Santana out until at least the All-Star break with shoulder surgery, the New York Mets are desperately in need of starting pitching.
As it stands now, the Mets' rotation consists of Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese.
Pelfrey was excellent for the first half of last season but struggled down the stretch. Dickey was one of the few bright spots in another mediocre year for the Mets. Niese looked solid at times but is still young and still maturing.
After those three guys, the Mets have two question marks. With very little money to spend, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has turned his attention to the bargain bin, mainly starters with recent injury history or coming off injuries.
Everyone is waiting for the Mets to make a move for some starting pitching, but supply is limited. Let's take a look at some possible options for the Mets' starting rotation in 2011.
First things first: Perez has been a terrible pitcher for the Mets. He's never lived up to his three-year, $36 million contract, and 99.9 percent of Mets fans want him gone.
That said, the Mets don't have a lot of options at starting pitcher, and Perez is probably going to get a chance in spring training.
Last season, Perez had a short leash. In just seven starts, the lefty posted an ugly 0-5 record and a 6.80 ERA. He was sent to the minors, where he made four starts and went 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA. Perez was hidden in the bullpen for most of the season, making just six appearances after May 31.
Perez is currently pitching in the Mexican Winter League. He is 3-2 with a 5.14 ERA in five starts.
With the loss of lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano to free agency, the Mets are in need of a lefty out of the pen. Unfortunately, that role could be filled with Perez, as he most likely won't even sniff the starting rotation.
Gee was a late September call-up for the Mets. He made his first start on September 7, where he was impressive. He threw seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball while striking out four and walking three.
Gee would total five starts in the final weeks of the season, ending 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 17 strikeouts.
Gee is just 24 years old, and Mets manager Terry Collins has made it clear that Gee is going to get a look during spring training. He has a good slider and changeup and has hit 95 mph with his fastball.
Francis missed all of the 2009 season due to injury but returned to the Colorado Rockies in 2010. In just 104.1 IP, Francis went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 19 starts.
On November 4, the Rockies declined their option on Francis, making him a free agent.
The Mets are reportedly interested in Francis, basically because their payroll limitations force them to focus on low risk/high reward-type pitchers.
The Mets are willing to offer Francis a big league contract, while the Rockies are only willing to offer an invite to spring training.
The problem here is dollars. Francis is looking for around $4 million guaranteed, which is a bit too rich for the Mets' blood.
Young is yet another pitcher that falls under the low risk/high reward category for the Mets. Like Francis, Young has been hampered by injuries for the past two seasons. In two years, Young has thrown just 96 innings and made just 18 starts.
He made four starts for the San Diego Padres last season, posting a 0.90 ERA.
The Padres declined their option on Young, and the Mets' interest in the righty is said to be "heavy."
The Mets are very close to signing Young at this point and are already reviewing Young's medical reports.
Okay, one more for the low risk/high reward list.
From 2003-2008, Webb was one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball, but injuries have hampered his career for the last two seasons. Webb went down for the season in just his first start in 2009. He then missed all of last season.
Webb is said to be fully recovered and ready to start again. There is going to be some added interest in Webb from teams that are in need of starting pitching, not just the Mets. Even the Yankees are said to be asking about Webb after missing out on Cliff Lee.
SI.com's Jon Heyman tweeted that the Mets feel Webb is "too risky."
File Garza under the "long shot" category for Mets' starting pitching options.
With the Tampa Rays having lost a ton of talent to free agency, they're looking to improve any way they can. Garza's name has come up in trade talks, and the Rays are going to be asking a lot.
The Mets would have to give up at least three to four players for Garza, and they probably don't have enough talent to pull off a deal.
The one thing the Mets do have going for them on the trade front is that their minor league system has more guys close to the major league level than some other clubs. So if they could find the right package, they can use that as leverage in a trade for Garza.
Some of the better Mets prospects that could be used in a trade for Garza include Fernando Martinez, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada and Reese Havens. It could take three of those guys to pull off a deal for Garza, and that's a huge price tag.