New York Mets RHP Dillon Gee has likely thrown his last pitch in an orange and blue uniform. That came on June 14 against the Atlanta Braves when he pitched just 3.2 innings, giving up eight runs on 11 hits. While that type of performance leads to pitchers being taken out of rotations and sometimes off of rosters completely, many factors led to that fateful game.
Gee became one of the more dependable pitchers on the Mets’ staff in 2013 and earned the Opening Day nod in 2014 against the Washington Nationals. Since then, an interesting and, in some cases, unfair road has put Gee on the outside looking in as the Mets are poised to play in the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Gee was drafted in the 21st round of the 2007 draft. Many players taken that late have a more difficult road to the big leagues since they are not given the same treatment as players taken in earlier rounds. While talent has a lot to do with placement in drafts, the main reason top draft picks are treated differently clearly has to do with the financial commitments teams have already made.
Pitchers not known for a dominating fastball have a more difficult path to the big leagues as well. However, it is not one that is impossible. Gee pitched effectively as a starter for Brooklyn (short-season A) and St. Lucie (High-A) and was already in Double-A by the end of his second pro season. Though he was never as highly touted as the pitchers you hear spoken about with the Mets now, Gee had gotten enough attention that the Mets had him pitch for Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League that fall.
Gee made his MLB debut for the Mets on September 7, 2010. He was victorious, going seven innings and allowing just two hits and one run against the Nationals. His five September starts resulted in a 2.18 ERA, putting him in great position to make the squad the following season. In 2011, he made two starts, then three relief appearances before sticking in the rotation for good. He grinded out a season where he was helped out by some run support. He was 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA, throwing 160 innings over 30 games (27 starts).
He remained in the Mets’ rotation for 2012, though his season was cut short due to a blood clot that limited him to just 17 starts. He was back in time for the start of 2013, having his big moment on May 30 of that season. He threw shutout ball for seven-plus innings, leading the Mets to a win against the New York Yankees. Over a span of 28 starts (beginning with the Yankees game), Gee gave up just 61 runs in 202 innings for a 2.71 ERA. He averaged 7.21 innings per start, putting him up against any of the best pitchers in the game at that time. He was placed on the disabled list on May 10, 2014, costing him almost two months. Unfortunately, Gee struggled after coming off the disabled list, pitching to a 4.78 ERA the rest of the way.
The offseason for Gee was not very easy. The Mets were excited to plan the return of ace RHP Matt Harvey, as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. With Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon all expected to be part of the Mets rotation, it seemed little room was left for Gee. GM Sandy Alderson just about made it clear that he was looking to trade Gee, something that had to have bothered him. With the sudden injury and Tommy John operation for RHP Wheeler, Gee once again had a spot in the rotation towards the end of Spring Training. However, that coincided with the emergence of RHP Rafael Montero. Montero had a great spring and talk began that he may be a better option for the fifth starter spot. Gee got the nod, with Montero making the team as a relief pitcher and spot starter.
Gee made his first five starts of the 2015 season and had pitched seven innings in two of his last three. However, this coincided with the readiness of top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, who was tearing it up in Triple-A Las Vegas. His numbers were off the charts and more credence was given to it because the Pacific Coast League is considered a hitter-friendly league. The time had come for Syndergaard to be brought up to the major leagues, which was expected to impact the looks of the Mets rotation.
Gee was placed on the disabled list with a groin issue, which happened to coincide with Syndergaard’s call to the big leagues. After finally joining the Mets, Syndergaard pitched as well as expected, so there was no way he was losing his spot in the rotation. The Mets had been discussing the possibility of using a six-man rotation to minimize the innings of guys like Harvey, deGrom, and now Syndergaard. The choice of the six-man did little to appease Gee, who was upset that he had not been added to the roster and thought he was kept on his minor league rehab assignment too long.
It looks as if his unhappiness rubbed the Mets front office the wrong way. However, looking back on it, it makes sense to see why Gee would be upset. He threw back-to-back solid seven-inning outings which he deserved to win, followed by a game in which the Mets lost 1-0. He did nothing to deserve being booted from the Mets’ rotation. If anything, the Mets could have brought back Gee on time and gone to the six-man rotation sooner. It is interesting to see how much his performance was impacted by the moving parts around him. Coming in as a sixth starter gave certainly no guarantee he was going to make every start. He was roughed up by the Padres, giving up seven runs in four innings, and his next appearance was against the Giants — in relief.
Dillon Gee had given everything he had for the Mets organization. He had come up through the system at a fast pace for a guy taken in the 21st round. He won 13 games in his first professional season and had nearly 12-month stretch as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. He could probably see the writing on the wall from the offseason trade discussions, the Mets announcing he would be a reliever, the sudden competition with Montero after he was told he would be in the rotation because of the Wheeler injury, and Syndergaard essentially taking his spot as a Mets starter.
There was no doubt Gee was pitching for a rotation spot that Sunday afternoon against the Braves. He had very good numbers against Atlanta coming in, but for whatever reason, he looked like a different pitcher. The Braves pillaged him for eight runs in 3.2 innings, his worst start in the major leagues. Even though the Mets rallied to win the game in dramatic fashion, 10-8, Gee was designated for assignment after the game. The Mets decided it was no longer worth the trouble to keep a disgruntled pitcher in the bullpen. Plus, two weeks to the day later, rookie LHP Steven Matz made his much-anticipated MLB debut.
Dillon Gee will be watching the playoffs, the Mets included, from the sidelines. And next season, he will likely be reporting to spring training wearing a different MLB uniform. Based on his track record in the big leagues, he should be given a crack to make the back of some team’s rotation. And if he can somehow duplicate his 2013-2014 run, he can become a bargain. Gee’s story is what the comeback player of the year is all about. All he needs is a new team and the ending.