Mets Internal Bullpen Options
Lets start with the caveat that the non-elite closer bullpen market has yet to fully materialize. Once Kenley Jansen picks his team, it appears as if the market for the next tier of relievers, which includes possible Mets targets in Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara, will begin to emerge. It is also possible the Mets could trade Jay Bruce or some other players for bullpen help.
With those caveats in mind, there are two issues confronting the Mets bullpen. The first is that many relievers who could help the Mets in 2017 may move out of their price range, especially with Sandy Alderson announcing the team has to reduce its current payroll. The other obvious issue is the Mets have to somehow contend with the possibility that Jeurys Familia may be gone for a significant portion of the season. With that in mind, the Mets may very well have to look internally to fill one or more of the holes in their bullpen.
This begs the question about whether they can do it. Here is a look at some of the options for the 2017 season to determine whether or not the Mets current bullpen issues can be solved internally:
2016 MLB Stats: 1-0, 5.23 ERA, 16 G, 10.1 IP, 1.548 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
2016 MiLB Stats: 2-2, 3.11 ERA, 43 G, 37.2 IP, 1.540 WHIP, 10.8 K/9
In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, the biggest thing that stuck out for Edgin was his loss of velocity. Once, Edgin was a reliever who came out of the bullpen throwing 94 MPH. In 2016, Edgin loss three MPH off his fastball, and as a result, he went from limiting right-handed batters to a .219/.286/.250 batting line in his breakout 2014 season to a .300/.400/.500 batting line in 2016.
It should be noted the numbers from the 2014 and 2016 seasons are both relatively small sample sizes. Additionally, Edgin continued to pitch well against left-handed batters in 2016 limiting them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line. With that Edgin proved he can still be an effective LOOGY out of the pen even with this reduced velocity. If Edgin were to regain that velocity, he can fully take over the role left vacated by Jerry Blevins.
2016 MLB Stats: 0-1, 7.13 ERA, 14 G, GS, 17.2 IP, 1.585 WHIP, 5.6 K/9
2016 MiLB Stats: 9-7, 4.86 ERA, 19 G, 18 GS, 107.1 IP, 1.425 WHIP, 7.9 K/9
Despite Gilmartin being an important part of the Mets 2015 bullpen, the team decided it was better for him to work on being a starting pitcher in AAA rather than him reprising his role as the long man in the bullpen. While he started out well for the 51s, he would eventually begin to suffer some shoulder discomfort, which required a stint on the disabled list, and his stats would suffer from there. It probably didn’t help that the Mets expected him to take cross-country flights and make multiple inning appearances out of the bullpen with three days of rest or less. Ultimately, we have seen Gilmartin be successful in the major leagues out of the bullpen, and accordingly, we should not discount the possibility he will be successful out of the bulllpen again in 2017.
2016 MLB Stats: 5-2, 2.67 ERA, 17 G, 8 GS, 64.0 IP, 1.094 WHIP, 6.3 K/9
2016 MiLB Stats: 3-4, 6.50, 21 G, 14 GS, 73.1 IP, 1.677 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
After Lugo struggled in AAA, he was taken out of the rotation, and he was put in the bullpen. For a guy that can max out his fastball over 95 MPH and has a terrific curveball, it seemed like the best place for him in a Mets organization with plenty of pitching depth. When he first came up to the majors and made Anthony Rizzo look foolish with his curveball, it seemed like Lugo had a home in the bullpen.
However, with the starting pitching injuries mounting, Lugo was thrust into the rotation. With a postseason berth on the line, he combined with fellow rookie Robert Gsellman to pitch extremely well. It is now debatable as to whether or not the bullpen is the best use of Lugo’s talents. It is all the more debatable when you consider the Mets rotation has some injury concerns and is likely going to deal with some innings limits. With that in mind, while Lugo has certainly proven himself to be an effective reliever, he may be best suited to either the fifth spot in the rotation, or starting the year in the AAA rotation and being ready for the first opportunity that arises.
2016 MiLB Stats: 5-3, 3.29 ERA, 56 G, 19 SV, 65.2 IP, 1.203 WHIP, 11.0 K/9
With Sewald not being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he is now a possibility to be a part of the Mets bullpen in 2017. The issue with Sewald is his stuff is not that impressive with him only topping out in the low 90s with his fastball. However, that overlooks the fact that he has a good slider which he uses as an out pitch, and the fact he rarely walks batters. In his minor league career, he has only walked 59 batters in 258.0 innings pitched.
Another factor to consider is how well he pitched in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter’s haven. In the second half of the season, Sewald made 20 appearances going 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 10 saves, 0.95 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9. In looking over his entire minor league career, Sewald has rarely walked batters, has struck out over 10 batters per nine, has had low ERAs, and has consistently been a good closer. With his experience, talent, and the Mets catchers excellent pitch framing, there is every reason to believe Sewald has a legitimate chance to be a good reliever in the major leagues.
2016 MLB Stats: 3-0, 4.70 ERA, 20 G, 15.1 IP, 1.304 WHIP, 14.7 K/9
2016 MiLB Stats: 3-2, 4.11 ERA, 52 G, 57.0 IP, 1.474 WHIP, 12.8 K/9
The Smoker we saw with the Mets was essentially the Smoker that we have seen in his minor league career. Smoker is a one inning reliever who strikes out a lot of batters, but he has reverse splits. Whereas Edgin is a LOOGY, Smoker is somehow a left-handed ROOGY that gets tattooed by left-handed hitting. Another issue for Smoker is he is only good for one inning. Every single outing he was asked to go over one inning by the Mets, he allowed a home run.
Still, there is a place for a pitcher like Smoker in the bullpen. His ability to generate strikeouts at a level as high as he does is rare, and it is very valuable.
2014 Stats: 11-11, 3.54 ERA, 32 G, 32 GS, CG, SHO, 185.1 IP, 1.327 WHIP, 9.1 K/9
With Wheeler missing two seasons, the Mets have already bandied the idea of putting Wheeler and his 96 MPH fastball in the bullpen. On the one hand, it seems like it is a good opportunity for Wheeler to get back to pitching to major league batters while keeping his inning down after missing the past two seasons while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
There are some issues with Wheeler in the bullpen. The first is he has a tendency to lose the strike zone which is a huge problem for short inning relievers. The second is, as we saw with Jim Henderson, Terry Collins has a tendency to overlook his relievers injury issues and overwork them anyway. The third and final issue is what type of reliever will he be? Is he going to be a multi-inning reliever who will be shut down for a couple of days afterwards, or is he going to be a one inning reliever expected to air it out for one inning.
The answer to that and many other questions will be resolved once the Mets ultimately decide what Wheeler is. Is he someone that can rejoin the rotation, or is he someone forever slated to the bulllpen? At this point, it is hard to know the answer.
Overall, the Mets have plenty of internal options to fill-out their bullpen. Indeed, if they were to use only internal options, it is possible the Mets could build themselves a very good bullpen. However, if the Mets were to purely stick with internal options, it remains possible the Mets may expose their starting rotation by not having pitchers like Gilmartin, Lugo, or Wheeler sufficiently stretched out to start.
Ulimately, the Mets would be wise to use some of their internal options to help build their bullpen in 2017. With that said, the team is still going to need to obtain one or two relievers before the end of the offseason.