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Bad Decisions Like Designating Chris Flexen For Assignment Matter

This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.

Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.

With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.

The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.

It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.

In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.

Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.

Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.

With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.

At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.

In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.

15 thoughts on “Bad Decisions Like Designating Chris Flexen For Assignment Matter”

  1. Flexen another interchangable 6th starter

    1. metsdaddy says:

      He’s not a starter anymore. He’s a reliever who has two pitches which could make him quite a good one.

  2. LongtimeFan1 says:

    Totally agree, metsdaddy, terrible decision on Mets part. There were so many others worthy of DFA before Flexen who showed glimpses in 2019 of his stuff and mentality to carve out solid or better big league career.

    Not only did Flexen get fit and get his his knee healthy, he significantly improved his fastball velo and showed good movement on his secondaries. At times he demonstrated confidence and a fearless mentality which worked for a time in second 2019 call up.

    And this is the issue with Flexen – he has the size and potential with his stuff – he just needs to learn how to effectively pitch in the majors. He should have been one of the last to DFA, if ever this offseason, not the first. I would have DFA’d any of Mazza, Sewald, Gagnon, Zamora, Haggerty and perhaps Oswalt before Flexen.

    Perhaps Mets assumed Flexen with his big MLB and AAA struggle would pass through waivers unclaimed. Instead Flexen decides to leave for Korea. I don’t know how that materialized – if he asked and the Mets granted his release after passing through waivers, or he had the right to declare free agency after declining assignment. If someone – Metsdaddy or a reader -knows the answer to that, please let me know. Brodie’s front office made another decision that irks me as plain stupid and short sighted.

  3. Longtimefan1 says:

    Never mind about Gagnon who was released on Nov. 22nd.

  4. Ron says:

    Flexen — and Gagnon who is also mentioned in these comments — are both mediocre at best …. you could also add Sewald, Bashlor, Oswald and Lockett as completely interchangeable and replaceable parts.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Flexen has above average fastball velocity and an elite spin on his breaking pitches. That’s not interchangeable with a Mazza.

      It’s simply not.

      1. ron says:

        I didn’t mention Mazza in my “interchangeable parts” comments ….. frankly, I think he’s a decent guy and I love hist story, but he is not a critical part of a championship team’s bullpen in my opinion. Said differently, I don’t think Mazza rises to the category of “interchangeable part” in my previous comment.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          You didn’t, but you’re including Flexen in a group despite his having far superior stuff. He’s not interchangeable

  5. Longtimefan1 says:

    I most definitely believe the 25 -26 y.o. Flexen-bust crowd are destined to eat their words.

    I would not at all be surprised to see him succeed in Korea and return to the majors as solid to dominant reliever or perhaps starter. It’s just rather short-sighted to conclude that 25, or 26 is old, and that someone with his attributes is washed up.

    Flexen has size, stuff and decent mechanics, as well as fastball velocity that’s jumped nearly 2 mph in 2 seasons. In 2019, it averaged 94.3. metsdaddy mentions excellent spin rate on another pitch. Crazy to give up on a pitcher with these attributes and youth. With just small sample size of 68 innings and 8.07 era, those numbers could change in a hurry when he learns command and control of strike zone with the stuff he has and adding a third pitch.

    Now he heads to Korea to figure it out in what amounts to fresh start. Having seen what I have over the course of 50 years as baseball fan with a pretty good track record recognizing ability and drive, I think it’s only a matter of time before Flexen learns how to harness that stuff into success in Korea and eventual return to majors.

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