Archie Bradley May Not Be Reliever Mets Should Pursue
Perhaps the biggest name and surprise non-tender was Archie Bradley. After all, Bradley is coming off a great season in limited duty. Bradley was limited both by a shortened season and by a back injury.
In 2020, Bradley made 16 appearances. He was 2-0 with six saves, a 2.95 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9. He also had a 2.59 FIP and a 163 ERA+. If you break it down, it is somewhat ridiculous Bradley would be non-tendered. That goes double when you consider his full career.
From 2017 – 2020, Bradley had a 2.95 ERA, 152 ERA+, 3.19 FIP, 1.197 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9. Those are excellent to elite numbers. However, those numbers only tell part of the story for Bradley.
Bradley broke out with an absurdly good 2017. In that year, Bradley was 3-3 with a 1.73 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 9.7 K/9. So far, this season has been an anomaly in his career. Over his subsequent two seasons, Bradley had a 3.58 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and a 10.2 K/9. When looking at the advanced numbers, his ERA+ dropped from 273 to 122, and his FIP dropped from 2.61 to 3.56.
Essentially, Bradley went from a elite reliever to a very good one. Part of the reason was his 2017 season was very difficult to replicate. There are also factors where his .276 BABIP against and 88.2 LOB% were going to stabilize. We actually did see that happen the subsequent two seasons, and that is one of the reasons why his stats began to return to earth.
Another and perhaps more important reason is Bradley’s stuff has been in decline. In 2017, Bradley averaged 96.3 MPH with his fastball. He’s been gradually losing velocity to the point where he has lost two full MPH off his fastball. He’s also lost spin off of his fastball. He’s similarly lost MPH and spin off of his curveball which is his primary secondary offering.
Looking specifically at that curve, Bradley had very good vertical movement. That was part of the reason why he had a 26.7 Whiff% on the pitch. Again, those numbers have been in decline each and every year to the point where that Whiff% has dropped to 16.7 in 2020. That Whiff% was good in 2019, but that season is an outlier.
With Bradley, you see a pitcher who is losing velocity and spin. As a result, he is becoming more hittable. That is problematic for any pitcher, especially for a reliever.
Now, it is eminently possible Bradley returns to his 2019 form. After all, the 2020 season was unique, and we saw it impacted the way many players were able to train and prepare for the season. With a full offseason to prepare and with his getting further away from his back injury, Bradley could reasonably be expected to gain some of his lost MPH off his fastball.
Still, it is far from a guarantee, and it is notable he was losing MPH and spin off of all of his pitches prior to the 2020 season. This makes Bradley a bit of a gamble, and it may be a relatively expensive one. Looking at the Mets current bullpen, they are really ill suited to go looking for gambles like this.
The Mets already have Dellin Betances who is a gamble with his injury history and his own history of losing velocity and spin. The same goes for Brad Brach and Jeurys Familia. With those pitchers in the bullpen, the Mets need more reliable options much like the one they got when they signed Trevor May.
The team also could use a pitcher like a Brad Hand who could be effective against left-handed hitters. The left-handed reliever is of premium concern when the NL East has hitters like Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, and Freddie Freeman. Certainly, given the Mets heavy left-handed hitting roster, it would behoove them to grab the top left-handed relievers just to keep them away from their division.
All told, Bradley is a good reliever, but he is one who has been in decline. While you may believe he could return to form, this Mets bullpen is not constructed well enough to take on a gamble like that. With that being the case, the Mets should probably look towards one of the better relief options on the market, preferable a left-handed one like Hand.