New York Mets: Chris Young Injury Is the Spark That Lights the Fire Sale

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIMay 10, 2011

Once again, Murphy's Law reigns supreme.

On the same day the Mets learned that top pitching prospect Jenry Mejia will undergo Tommy John surgery, arguably their best starting pitcher, Chris Young, went down for the season.

Young has "essentially" the same injury that put Johan Santana under the knife on September 14 last year and it's the same injury that limited Young to just four appearances for the San Diego Padres last season.

Santana continues to rehab with an eye on an early-July return.

Regardless of whether Young opts for surgery, his time with the Mets is done. His contract had a base salary of $1.1 million and could have risen as high as $4.5 million after incentives, none of which Young will meet now.

The one two punch of the Mejia and Young injuries hurts more than a Manny Pacquiao right hand to the face.

Young was well on his way to being one of the best offseason acquisitions the Mets have made in recent memory. Young was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in six starts and was coming off a masterful performance in Philadelphia where he gave up no runs and just two hits over seven innings.

The Mets are now left to pick up the pieces of their shattered rotation and an even bigger problem, one that has always hidden under the surface.

The Mets have no depth in the minor leagues to compensate for any losses on the major league level.

It's been said over and over again and the only saving grace is that the Mets weren't expected to contend this season and haven't in the last three.

Dillon Gee had already made two starts in place of Young this season and now replaces him in the rotation for the remainder of the season.

That's a huge sigh of relief for the Mets.

But who's waiting behind Gee should another rotation arm go down?

There is almost no help on the horizon should the Mets find themselves in need, and that might be just a matter of time considering the Mets luck in recent years.

Despite their sub-par performances, each arm in the Mets rotation is more valuable than the last. Other than Gee, there is no starting pitcher on the Mets with an ERA south of four. R.A. Dickey leads the team with a 4.50 ERA.

At this point, the Mets would rather have Jon Niese struggle every fifth day than have him go down with an injury. The same can be said for every arm in the rotation.

That stance is understandable considering the possible replacements the Mets would be stuck with should they require a call-up.

Right now, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia are the Mets top pitching prospects but neither is close to major league ready. Harvey is dominating at High-A Port St. Lucie and will move up quickly, but he still doesn't figure in the starting rotation until 2012. The same goes for Familia.

If the Mets value experience over statistics, Pat Misch and D.J. Carrasco would probably be the first call-ups should another injury occur. Misch is currently 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA in four stats at Triple-A Buffalo.

Misch has made a total of 13 starts for the Mets from 2009-2010. He's 3-8 with a 3.97 ERA.

Carrasco was the only offseason signing to receive a major league contract. He was sent to Buffalo once Young came off the DL the first time to make room to keep Gee with the club.

Carrasco is 0-1 with a 6.60 ERA in nine innings since going to Buffalo.

He was meant to fill the role left by Hisanori Takahashi, a versatile reliever also capable of making spot starts. But Carrasco struggled in his role as a reliever, posting a 5.91 ERA in eight appearances, and gave up three earned runs over 3 2/3 innings in his lone stat on April 16.

To fill out a rotation with the hot hands, fans would have to become familiar with several new names, including Chris Schwinden, Casey Fossum, Dale Thayer and Justin Hampson.

If that happens, the Mets will officially have hit the lowest point of the season. No matter how badly the Mets may struggle, no one wants to see any of their rotation suffer an injury.

This situation is just another example of the mistakes made under the Omar Minaya regime. The Mets have failed to build a farm system capable of filling holes at the major league level or produce top prospects.

Much of that is a combination of poor scouting and bad draft picks. The Mets have historically adhered to major league baseball's slotting system, which recommends how much to spend on draft picks. Many top players fall in the draft because of concerns that will cost them too much to sign.

Over the last five drafts, the Mets have spent the second least in baseball.

The Mets continue to be aggressive in the international market and general manager Sandy Alderson has already made several changes to the Mets scouting and development department.

Things will have to improve if the Mets want to have any chance to contend in upcoming seasons.

Right now, the Mets' starting rotation hangs on a razor's edge. Another injury will likely be the final nail in the coffin and Young's injury may just be the spark that ignites the fire sale that will result in trades involving Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, as well as several other possibilities.

This is a huge problem and the injuries to Young and Mejia only bring it into better focus.