Five right-handed relievers who could fill the Mets need in the bullpen
In their bullpen, the Mets have Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin, Jerry Blevins, Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin, Carlos Torres, and Logan Verrett under control this winter, with Familia, Torres and Edgin going to arbitration for the first time.
They’ve also signed Buddy Carlyle and Jim Henderson to minor league deals, giving them some extra depth from the right side in 2016.
But one of the Mets goals this winter is to retool their bullpen and create a lockdown formula before getting the ball to Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning.
It stands to reason, as 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.
But so far this winter, the Mets have seemed reluctant to buy into the top tiers of the relief market thanks to their unwillingness to sign anyone to a multi-year deal to this point. But given how the market for relievers has evolved and the buyers in the market placing a premium on relievers, the Mets might have to eventually consider a multi-year deal to a reliever if they wish to achieve their goal of creating a dominant bullpen.
The last multi-year contract Sandy Alderson’s front office gave to a reliever was Frank Francisco when they signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract following the 2011 season.
Here is a look at five of the remaining right-handed relievers on the market, and whether or not they might fit the Mets…
Albers has been one of the best relievers in the game since the 2012 season, yet he hasn’t garnered that much attention as a free agent this winter.
He was dominant when he pitched in 2015, as was scored upon only three times in 30 appearances. Albers is not a strikeout guy, but he’s become a groundball machine since his breakout season in 2012 thanks to a heavy incorporation of a sinker ball.
He’s posted the 14th best ERA among all big league relievers since 2012 (2.32) and the 18th best groundball percentage since 2012 (59.2 percent) as well.
However, the last two seasons haven’t been kind to Albers from an injury perspective. He made only eight appearances for the Astros in 2014 with a shoulder injury, and he broke a finger in a benches-clearing brawl in April last season, causing him to miss three months of action.
But clearly, when Albers is healthy and pitching, he is one of the best relievers in the game, and an underrated one at that.
Clippard can go a long way towards neutralizing big left-handed bats, as he proved so well during his brief tenure with the Mets. He held left-handed hitters to a .137 average in 2015 and a .174 average with the Mets after being acquired. He has a deadly change-up and an awkward delivery which makes him very deceptive.
Clippard unquestionably struggled in September and became a question mark in the postseason for the Mets in October. But that could be due to a real heavy workload in August, during which he basically pitched every other day on average and made way too many back-to-back appearances during that timeframe., and he experienced reduced velocity and movement on his pitches.
It’s not an excuse for his uneven performance in September and October, but it cannot be discounted as a reason either.
He seemed destined to get a multi-year deal this winter, but those late-season performance concerns might have thrown water onto that fire. Still, the Mets have remained interested in a reunion, and Clippard has said he likes the Mets and would consider a return. Perhaps one year and a vesting option could be agreed upon.
Hunter seemingly re-branded himself as a quality right-handed reliever after transitioning from a below average starting pitcher into the bullpen after the 2012 season. But he took a step back in 2015 and found himself traded to the Cubs where he was ineffective following the trade deadline. Following the trade to the Cubs, Hunter got smoked by left-handed hitters tot he tune of a 1.066 OPS, although righties had him mostly solved as well with a .293/.326/.415 line against him.
He’s a groundball pitcher although his rate dipped to 44.9 percent after posting a 50.8 groundball rate in 2014. He’s a hard thrower with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, but for whatever reason he used his curveball more and that fastball less last season, which could be attributed to his struggles in general.
If he could get back to utilizing his hard fastball, he could be a quality right-handed reliever in the league again. But for the Mets, he might be more of a project for Dan Warthen than some of the other options ahead of him, and while that might result in a reduced cost in free agency, the Mets would be better suited to procure a surer bet.
Webb has consistently been an above average reliever since the 2010 season. He suffered a knee injury in Spring Training last season with the Indians which kept him out of action for the first month of the season, but he posted a career-best 134 ERA+ and finished 11 of his 40 games in 2015.
He’s a quality groundball pitcher with a low-90s sinker ball, which is the key to his success. He also flirts with a change-up and slider, but his bread and butter will always be his heavy sinker.
Webb’s tailing sinker helped him remain effective against left-handed hitters in particular. He held them to a .631 OPS in 2015, which is an improvement over his career mark of .750. Typically, he’s been more effective against right-handed pitching in his career, but that improvement against the left side could be attributed to increased usage of his change-up which, like it is for Clippard, can be a very effective piece against left-handed hitters.
He’s not the sexiest reliever left on the market, but Webb could be a real solid, under-the-radar pickup for the Mets in their bullpen on a one-year deal, or perhaps one plus some kind of option.
Belisle had a very good year in St. Louis after six up-and-down years in Colorado. He allowed only one home run in 33 2/3 innings over 34 appearances in 2015, a career-low. He relied less on his four-seam fastball and more on his two-seam, slider and change to be successful in 2015, resulting in 52.4 percent groundball rate.
But Belisle missed almost three months in 2015 with an elbow injury. He did come back in September and was effective in four appearances down the stretch, but given his age (35) and this elbow problem, Belisle might be a little too risky for the Mets as a primary option late in games.
Boyer had an up-and-down career with the Braves, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Mets before playing in Japan in 2012 and 2013. He then signed with the Padres in 2014 and put together his best season as a big leaguer with the Twins in 2015, posting a career best 2.49 ERA in 68 appearances.
A refined two-seamer seemed to lead to success for Boyer, as he became less reliant on four-seamers. He’s become a groundball pitcher, but not a pronounced one like some other relievers available on the market.
Boyer is riskier given career track record, which probably won’t make him a primary option for the Mets. But he could become an arm the Mets consider if they are unable to procure a better option, and he could be a good bargain as well.