[Aaron] Heilman’s agent, Mark Rodgers, said earlier today they haven’t made a decision yet, but it sounded as though Heilman was leaning toward declining the offer [of arbitration] and testing free agency.Okay, okay, I know it's out there. But with the Mets seemingly in rebuilding mode for a year, why not take a low-cost shot at a guy like Aaron Heilman? Heck, for beginners, he's about a million times more likely than Chris Young to pitch more than 30 innings this year.
Part of the thinking, it appears, is that Heilman might get a chance to do what he’s always wanted to do: try his hand as a starting pitcher.
“If he’s ever going to find out, this would certainly be that opportunity,” Rodgers said. “Being a starting pitcher has been the thing he’s enjoyed doing the most.”
Heilman has a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, change-up); he was a starting pitcher in college; and he started in the minors, in college and intermittently in his first three years at the big league level.
Rodgers wouldn’t be specific on how many clubs have expressed interest in Heilman, saying that there “has been a lot of activity on him,” including a “small handful of teams that asked how he would feel about starting again.”
A team could want to see how Heilman looks as a starter in spring training and, if he doesn’t win a job in the rotation, simply plug him back into the bullpen, where he’s been one of baseball’s more durable relievers over the past five seasons.
The idea would go something like this - sign Heilman to something near the minimum but guarantee him that he'll start and put in incentives for innings pitched. However, you include a clause that will allow Heilman the opportunity to void his contract and become a free agent if the Mets ever remove him from the rotation.
Can that be done? I'm not sure. But if it can, that contract would serve the main goals of each entity involved perfectly.
For the Mets? With no clear candidate for #5 starter (or #4 for that reason) will add some depth. It'll be cheap if it doesn't work out and they cut him. If he ends up performing well, he'll earn it through incentives, and the Mets will be able to bring him back in 2012.
For Heilman? He obviously gets the opportunity live his dream and be a starting pitcher. Except THIS time, he'll have the ability to do something he's never been able to do before - avoid being banished to the bullpen after a few bad starts. If Heilman stinks, he'll be able to test the water as a free agent again if he so chooses and hope to latch on with a team that'll use him in that role.
Will he ever come back to the team that screwed him? Probably not. Will he even be effective as a starter? Maybe. But I'd give his agent a call right away.