The interest in free-agent rehab project Ben Sheets seems to involve four teams: the A’s, Cubs, Mets and Rangers. There might be a few others lurking on the fringe, waiting to swoop in with a stealth offer, but it seems likely that Sheets will eventually sign with one of those four clubs.
While the Rangers might seem like the frontrunner, based on their near-deal a year ago and their employment of Sheets’ former pitching coach, Mike Maddux, it’s unlikely. For one thing, the Rangers seem to be finished with any major acquisitions, they were just sold and Sheets’ current demands probably price him out of their remaining budget. OK, so three things. Plus, as a coworker speculated, would they want to take the chance with another risky signing after putting so much into their addition of Rich Harden?
The Cubs’ interest seems to have been devalued almost as soon as it was speculated, which may leave the two teams who have been jilted the most this offseason fighting over a question mark who is asking for a lot of guaranteed money for a guy who last pitched in September 2008 and could not contribute to the Brewers’ final push to the Wild Card and their NLDS against the Phillies.
Jilted so much already this offseason, the Mets need to bring in Sheets just on the chance that he can once again be a strikeout pitcher who won’t be hurt by Citi Field’s expansive outfield gaps or the team’s suspect defense on the right side of the infield. They need a fifth pitcher to pencil into the rotation heading into Spring Training — when they’ll be watching closely a rotation that has no sure things. Johan Santana, John Maine and Oliver Perez are coming off of injuries. Mike Pelfrey didn’t make the strides expected of him. And Jon Niese, just to throw out one possibility for the fifth starter, is both coming off of injury and still unproven. Sheets is necessary and Jon Garland might be, too, simply to give the Mets a fighting chance at hanging around the division leaders through the summer solstice.
And, frankly, the Mets might need to sign Sheets just to give some of us a little more hope heading into Spring Training.