As we solemnly shift into the 2008-2009 off-season, I guess it's never too early to look ahead.
Here's a list of all the pitchers who made an appearance with the Mets in 2008, and whether they should stay or go, and why:
Johan Santana - Stay.
Mike Pelfrey - Stay. Probably the #2 starter next season.
Oliver Perez - Stay. Maybe. First tough one. He's good, he's young, and he's lefty. Too bad he's going to be expensive. I would say sign him again, maybe a three year deal. He's proven capable of pitching, sometimes. He put together a few good starts, but struggles at times. If he's re-signed, Mets fans must accept he will never be consistent.
John Maine - Stay. Surgery for him on Tuesday, and with a full recovery, he'll be back to normal. Without any huge acquisitions (CC Sabathia), Maine could be the #3 guy in the rotation. I think the Mets need a bit of an upgrade in the starting rotation, so Maine might be the #4. I love his fight and I think he can be a top-class pitcher if he can limit his pitch count and work further into games.
Pedro Martinez - Go. Sorry, Pedro. I love you, you helped turned this team around, but I can't see the Mets bringing you back, if you even keep pitching past this year. I say call it a career. Focus on your family, and become a fun-loving announcer or something like that. You've had a great run. Sorry this team couldn't send you out on top.
Billy Wagner - Go. Injured, and out for all of 2009. He's thrown his last pitch as a Met. Too bad they'll still be paying him.
Pedro Feliciano - Stay. Though he'll probably take a month off after appearing in 86 games this season. He's decent for what he does and won't be too expensive.
Joe Smith - Stay. I love him. He is overused, but that was a creature of the rest of the bullpen. He's great.
Aaron Heilman - GO! Trade him away, ship him somewhere, get him off the team. He's worn out his welcome on more than one occasion, and if the Mets want to please Mets fans and pay them back for what they've done these last two season, they will trade Heilman as soon as possible. He's the scapegoat of this team and he will never prosper while pitching in Queens.
Scott Schoeneweis - Go. People had interest in him nearing the end of July, so hopefully there is still some sort of market for him. Trade him.
Duaner Sanchez - Stay. Only because I think he wasn't fully prepared for a full season of pitching. After getting this under his belt, and a long offseason, I think Sanchez can come back as a decent pitcher. Take a chance.
Nelson Figueroa - Stay. I say keep him. He's perfect AAA fodder. He can start, come out of the bullpen, and is very versatile. He's not lights out, but he's capable and a New York native.
Brandon Knight - Stay. Why not? He's not going to cost much and can pitch three good innings. He's better suited out of the bullpen, as opposed to starting. Will not be heartbroken when the Mets release him, though.
Claudio Vargas - Stay. This is going to become a theme. I don't mind keeping guys like this because we all know the Mets will suffer injuries. They're going to need "veterans" to come up and fill in. Vargas was much better than I expected, so if he can keep that going, I wouldn't mind a spot start or two from him.
Brian Stokes - Stay. Smoking fastball, and with a bit of tweaking, he'd be a great relief pitcher. His fastball doesn't seem to move much, but he can get it up there. A good 6th or 7th inning guy, but nothing in clutch situations. He's not the next closer.
Carlos Muniz - Go. I know he's been on the Heath Bell Express, but I haven't seen more than a handful of good performances from him. Stay in the minors, please.
Luis Ayala - Go. Worth what we traded for him, but he's a guy on the fence. He's not a closer, but he might be able to pitch in relief in non-pressure situation. But then what's the point of keeping him around? Adios, amigo. You successfully got Anderson Hernandez out of this organization, and for that we are forever in debt to you.
Jonathon Niese - Stay. Possible starter next year? We saw what he's capable of with that eight inning, shut out performance against the Braves. Young, with a nasty curve ball. He's obviously not going anywhere, but it's yet to be determined if he can make the cut for the majors. See you in spring training.
Tony Armas - Stay. See: Claudio Vargas.
Matt Wise - Go. What a waste of a contract. Eight games, seven innings, 6.43 ERA. Good riddance.
Bobby Parnell - Stay. Another guy who could be starting next year, if things work out in his favor. Could also stick in the bullpen, but more valuable as a starter, I think. He looked a bit less polished than Niese, so we'll see him in spring training, and maybe if someone gets hurt.
Ricardo Rincon - Go. No sir.
Eddie Kunz - Stay. Closer of the future? That's yet to be determined, but he showed some signs of brillance. A big guy that can throw heat, how can you not love that. I could see him sticking in the bullpen out of spring training.
In the end, I'd like to see a starting rotation of:
Perez (if cheap)
Niese / Parnell
And a bullpen of:
Kunz, Parnell, or Niese could all fit in there at some point in time, and maybe Knight for long relief.
Omar Minaya has a lot of work to do with this bullpen. Hopefully he doesn't take all four years of his contract extension to put it together.