Can’t Bear To See Smoker And Bradford Go
Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for. In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more. Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.
Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform. Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes. Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.
The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.
In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford. For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look. The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.
Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher. In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP. After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.
In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances. During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length. In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.
There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.
Smoker’s story is one of perseverance. After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum. This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.
A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets. Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason. Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.
What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him. Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues. It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson. Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury. Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.
Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did. In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances. Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.
However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.
After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora. With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point. That’s no small thing to lose.
As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear. While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.
Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more. They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.