Perez stays with Mets; O's get Wigginton

February, 3, 2009
02/03/09
5:13
PM ET
It was getting tough to project the Mets as the best team in the NL East, with their pitching staff consisting of three starting pitchers and a prayer, but now that Oliver Perez has been brought back ... OK, there will be still be some praying, but it is a good move.

Oliver PerezJohn Munson/US PresswireOliver Perez will get you strikeouts and some wins but will scare you many times.
I generally ignore Perez in drafts -- even when value for his strikeouts dictates otherwise -- based on the potential hurt factor. As in, putting a pitcher who leads the league in walks on your team is dangerous, despite the benefits. However, if there was a good situation for Perez to be in, it's back with the Mets, where his comfort level will presumably be high. I don't ever expect him to be consistent with his command, but at least he's with the Mets, and not the Texas Rangers. Can you imagine?

In 2007, Perez won 15 of his 29 starts, fanned 174 hitters and delivered a strong 3.56 ERA to go with a more-than-palatable 1.311 WHIP. Nobody could have complained about that season, though how many of us actually believed it? This is, after all, a pitcher who had an ERA well over 6 in 42 starts in 2005 and 2006, coming off his impressive 2004 with the Pirates. Perez did regress a bit to the mean this past season, topping the 100-walk mark for the first time and posting a WHIP on the wrong side of 1.40, but because of the 180 strikeouts, a lot of people probably didn't notice.

The walks don't make Perez unusable, of course. We still don't know for sure how the new Mets ballpark will play out, though I do think the pitching rubber will be the same distance from Ramon Castro as it was at Shea Stadium. Whether Perez can lower his abominable walk rate is problematic, but expect something in between his past two seasons. He is durable, and even while issuing free passes, he makes hitters look silly quite a bit. If he wins 12 games, fans more than eight hitters per nine innings, sports an ERA in the high-3s and a still-worthwhile WHIP around 1.37, he can be a top-50 pitcher and should be drafted accordingly.

The Mets had to get a starting pitcher to slot in after Johan Santana, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey so that the exciting Tim Redding/Freddy Garcia/Jonathan Niese competition would actually be a competition, instead of two of those pitchers winning rotation spots. The Mets could have done worse than Perez as a fourth starter, and that's the same in fantasy. You could do worse.

It's ironic to me that while I write about a player I will likely never own in Perez, I get to follow it up with one of my favorites finding work. Long live the underrated Ty Wigginton! Let's all get Wiggy, shall we? I didn't expect the rebuilding Orioles to take the plunge with Wigginton, because they have third baseman Melvin Mora coming off of a 104-RBI campaign, they're well-set at second base with Brian Roberts, they have Aubrey Huff and his top-15 OPS season at first base, and the outfield is presumably set with building block Nick Markakis and a pair of youngsters playing top defense in Adam Jones and Felix Pie. Luke Scott was supposed to be the main designated hitter. But the Orioles did it anyway. Where does Wigginton fit in?

Ty WiggintonBrett Davis/US PresswireTy Wigginton can play all over the diamond and hit no matter where he is.
The Orioles figure Wigginton will play all over, including designated hitter and left field against lefties, but fantasy owners will get to enjoy his versatility at third base and outfield. Consider him a Mark DeRosa type. Wigginton was second base-eligible the previous two seasons, making him one of my favorite late-game middle infield options. And why not? Wigginton has hit 23, 22 and 24 home runs the past three seasons, and managed averages of .285, .278 and .275. I don't consider durability a problem, despite the missed games through the years. He just needs a home. Give Wiggy a home, and let him hit. Sure, he does far better work against left-handed pitchers, but bat him sixth and there's no reason he can't hit his 20-something home runs and knock in 75 without hurting your batting average. I don't like him as much as an outfielder as I do as a second baseman, but wait until you see how bereft of quality depth even the outfield spot is. Second base is shallow, but I wouldn't call outfield deep.

Wigginton is a top-20 third baseman with his power numbers, and a top-50 outfielder as well. That's draft-worthy in 12-team mixed leagues. I'd rather get Wiggy than Ollie, but I guess it's apples and oranges, no?

What else happened recently? The Rangers signed Eddie Guardado to a minor league deal, which could be nothing in fantasy, or could result in the veteran lefty saving games. I think Frank Francisco earned the job with his fine work in the second half of the season, but Guardado does have that experience and probably moves up to next in line.

The Orioles didn't only get a bargain in Wigginton, but former emerging southpaw Rich Hill was picked up on the cheap as well, as the Cubs gave up on him for a player to be named later. Hill was a huge bust in 2008, losing his command in the spring and never finding it again. In 2007, Hill was terrific, fanning 183 hitters and providing a 1.19 WHIP, with 11 wins. Many expected him to take more steps forward in 2008. Instead, Hill couldn't throw strikes, walking 18 hitters in 19 2/3 major league innings, with only 15 strikeouts. Things didn't get better in the minors, either, or in this winter's Venezuelan League.

I don't consider Hill mixed-league worthy at this time, but if he's throwing strikes in the spring, he's a definite AL-only sleeper. The Orioles should give him a rotation spot and see what happens. I wouldn't expect 2007 again, and maybe he was hiding an injury all of last season, but you never totally give up on someone with a curveball like his.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.

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