–Originally posted November 9, 2015–
Aside from being tasked with upgrading the team’s speed, defense, and swing-and-miss offense, one of the trouble points for the Mets which ultimately became exposed in the postseason, and specifically in the World Series, is their bullpen.
In five games in the World Series, the Mets bullpen gave up 24 earned runs in 51 1/3 innings, allowing 47 hits and 17 walks while blowing all three save opportunities they had, arguably costing them a World Championship in 2015.
In the process, the Royals outscored the Mets 15-to-1 in the seventh inning and later in the World Series. The Royals had eight extra-base hits, the Mets had none.
One could argue the Mets offense struggled in the World Series, and it unquestionably did. One could also argue the defense left the Mets vulnerable in the late innings, and also led to their demise in the World Series.
But World Series games typically feature low-scoring games, leaving it up to a bullpen to manage one or two-run leads in the final third of a game.
In the end, the Royals did that with their lockdown bullpen, the Mets did not with their porous bullpen.
Outside of the World Series, the Mets have an automatic in the ninth inning in Jeurys Familia. How do the Mets get him the ball with a lead in 2016?
The Mets seem likely to tender Addison Reed – who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in late August – a contract this winter. He was remarkably good for the Mets after the trade, posting a 1.17 ERA in 17 relief appearances with a 322 ERA+ and only one home run allowed in 15 1/3 innings. He earned $4.875 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and he will likely get a raise this winter to bring his salary into the $5.5-6.5 million range. But he has closing experience and certainly showed an ability to be a consistent lockdown presence in the eighth inning down the stretch and into the postseason for the Mets. Presumably that will be his role in 2016.
The Mets have Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin, Carlos Torres, and Logan Verrett under control this winter, with Torres and Edgin going to arbitration for the first time.
Robles seems like a sure bet to make the team out of camp, barring an epic disaster in Grapefruit League play. He was erratic with his slider which helped lead to the eight home runs he allowed in 57 games in 2015, but he was shutdown good against left-handed hitters in 2015, holding them to a .167 average in 84 plate appearances. If he can harness that slider, he has the chance to be a dominating, late-inning presence for the Mets in 2016.
It remains to be seen if Edgin is available by Opening Day thanks to undergoing Tommy John Surgery last March. It might be more realistic to expect Edgin back in May or June, but in any case, the Mets can’t really count on him being available and 100% going into the regular season. But if he can get rolling, Edgin seems primed to be one of their left-handed specialist solutions in 2016. Again, it’s a matter of when.
Depending on what the Mets are thinking, Torres could be a non-tender candidate. Gilmartin proved to be a very effective long-man in their bullpen – he posted a 2.01 ERA in 13 appearances in which he threw two innings or more this past season. He’s also two years away from arbitration, making him a less expensive solution to Torres. And with the Mets allocating upwards of $10 million to Reed and Familia, they may simply seek value in that roster spot for 2016.
In addition, the Mets have control over Jenrry Mejia, but he seems destined to be non-tendered as well. He was a non-existent presence for the Mets in 2015 thanks to two PED violations, the second one keeping him suspended into August of next season. He was slated to earn $2.6 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2015, but only earned around $400,000 thanks to his suspension. Assuming the Mets tendered a contract to Mejia and agreed to the same $2.6 million figure he was set to earn in 2015, he was activated with 60 days to go in the 2016 season and he did not receive a third suspension, the Mets would be responsible for about $900,000 in 2016.
That just doesn’t seem like a logical fit for the Mets.
It seems likely the Mets will let Tyler Clippard go as he will probably look for a multi-year deal, something the Mets have shown reluctance in doing since the failed experiment with Frank Francisco in 2012. Buddy Carlyle is a free agent, as is Vic Black, Dillon Gee and Jerry Blevins.
Blevins seems like an ideal free agent target for the Mets, who would go a long way towards filling in the gap the Mets have on the left side of their bullpen. Blevins had a disappointing season from an injury perspective – he broke his wrist taking a comeback on April 19, and then broke it again in late July after falling on it in Port St. Lucie while rehabbing, necessitating season-ending surgery. But he was lights out against left-handed hitters before going down in April – they went 0-for-14 with four strikeouts against Blevins over the first two weeks of the season.
Blevins made $2.4 milli0n in 2015, and he could figure to make between $2-3 million again in 2016. If that suits the Mets, they would have Blevins and Edgin (eventually) as left-handed specialists, Gilmartin as the long-man with Robles, Reed and Familia as their eighth and ninth inning staples in the bullpen.
The Mets could also go to the market for a left-handed specialist.
The Mets really need another stable right-handed arm to fortify their bullpen and build some quality depth, but again, given the high salaries already in their bullpen, the Mets will need to be thoughtful and creative in how they go about filling that need, with Clippard, Darren O’Day seemingly out of the cards as they appear poised to land multi-year deals, although Marc Carig of Newsday says the Mets do have interest in bringing O’Day back to the organization.
The Mets could consider relievers like Joakim Soria, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Broxton, and Trevor Cahill, all of which might take one-year contracts, although Soria could command a two-year deal.
The point is, there are plenty of opportunities via free agency for the Mets, and if the Mets want a veteran upgrade on the right side, they should have no problem taking advantage of such opportunities.