One of the fun things about Spring Training is the guy who plays so well, he forces his way onto the Opening Day roster.
In 1996, Butch Huskey hit nine homeruns in the Spring forcing the Mets to make him the Opening Day rightfielder even though he never previously played the position. In 2004, Tyler Yates had a 0.64 Spring Training ERA to get the fifth starter’s job. Yates beat out bigger Mets prospects like Aaron Heilman and Grant Roberts.
These players weren’t even darkhorse candidates to win the positions they ultimately attained on the Opening Day roster. Yet, they were able to win their jobs because they were that good in the Spring. More importantly, the Mets had a spot for these players. The Mets were held competitors for these positions, and these players performed so well that the Mets had no choice but to give them the job.
Looking over the 2016 Mets, there’s only one spot up for competition, and that’s in the bullpen. Right now with Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Antonio Bastardo, Jerry Blevins, and Hansel Robles, there are two spots up for grab. The names you’re apt to hear are Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett, and Erik Goeddel. Each pitched well out of the bullpen last year and deserve consideration.
Another name that deserves consideration is Jim Henderson.
If you don’t recognize the name, it’s understandable. He’s only pitched in 14 games in the majors the last two years due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. Those 14 games were two years ago when he registered a 7.15 ERA. With all that said, Henderson should not be disregarded. He has a legitimate shot at making the Mets Opening Day roster.
Prior to the shoulder injury, Henderson was a very good reliever. Between 2012 and 2013, he made 97 appearances. He had a 2.98 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 3.03 FIP, 133 ERA+, and 11.9 K/9. He only allowed 0.9 HR/9. In 2013, when the Brewers made him the closer, he recorded 28 saves.
He can help the Mets. Now that he has completed his rehab, he has a fastball that can touch 95 MPH. He knows how to strike guys out. For his career, he has just dominated righties. He has limited them to .183/.241/.284. At a minimum, he can be a specialist to get out tough right handed batters. Ideally, he can be the Chad Bradford to Blevins’ Pedro Feliciano. In order for that to happen, he just needs to get an opportunity.
Fortunately for him, Terry Collins seems like he is going to give Henderson a legitimate shot. As he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com:
His history is very intriguing. I know he’s a couple of years out of sugery now, which we’re hoping makes a big difference. I saw him inMilwaukee, and he was very, very good. I’m just hoping we can catch lightening in a bottle.
It’s fair to say, Henderson has impressed Collins. It’s half the battle. All Henderson has to do now is go out there and perform this Spring Training. Like Huskey and Yates, he has to dominate in the Spring. He has to give the Mets no choice but to put him on the roster.
Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com
I can make a case that Antonio Bastardo was a bad or unnecessary free agent signing. He walks to many guys. Following his ERA+, he’s an every other year player, and next year is his bad year. The Mets were well represented from the left-hand side with Jerry Blevins, Dario Alvarez, and Josh Edgin. Last year, Bastardo had less innings pitched than appearances.
However, I’m not going to make that case. Bastardo appears to be that rare cross-over non-closer lefty reliever. For his career, Bastardo allowed lefties to hit .178/.277/.319 and righties to hit .211/.308/.332. He had a 1.198 WHIP and a 11.0 K/9. He limits the long ball. He has been durable.
No, I’m again going to question this front offices’ obsession with steroids players. Bastardo is the third steroids player the Mets have signed this offseason. Bartolo Colon and Asdrubal Cabrera are the others. On top of that, the Mets offered Jenrry Mejia arbitration. This is the same Mejia who was suspended twice last year. The same Mejia the Mets were reportedly angry and disappointed with for the suspensions.
How can the Mets say one cross word about Mejia when they keep bringing other steroid users into the organization? It’s hypocritical. It’s apparent the Mets don’t care about steroids. They care about players getting caught.
If you think I’m going too far with this, or you don’t care, please consider this tweet:
Hey Antonio Bastardo, remember when we competed for a job in 2011. Thx alot. #ahole
— Dan Meyer (@Dmy53) August 5, 2013
That’s right. A roided up Bastardo beat a presumably clean pitcher for a job. Meyer never pitched in the big leagues again, and Bastardo has a two year $12 million contract. Of course it came from the Mets.
They love players who use steroids upo until the time they get caught. Then they’ll tell you how much they hate it. Hypocrites.
When gauging the free agent market, Sandy Alderson noted there aren’t many pitchers out there who aren’t much better than what they already have:
Alderson yesterday: "Does it really improve the team to give a reliever a 1-2 year deal if we don't believe he's better than what we have?"
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 8, 2016
There are dwindling options because the Mets didn’t act while there were high impact guys available. They waited and waited . . . . At that point, the only thing you can hope for is high upside relievers. That’s what “The Final Boss” was. He was a huge upside reliever. He dominated the Korean Leagues. We don’t know if he’s a closer, a high leverage reliever, or just an adept bullpen arm.
We do know he received a two year deal. He received a two year deal with an average annual value of around $3.7 million a year. That’s less than what the Mets are paying Jerry Blevins to be a LOOGY. What’s a better use of the money? A pitcher could be a dominant reliever or someone who can only get lefties out? I like Blevins, and the Mets do need a LOOGY. However, is that more valuable than a late inning reliever who could spell Jeurys Familia on occasion. Blevins isn’t going to take any innings away from Familia. He’s not going to allow the Mets to save Familia from being overworked.
However, that’s a false narrative. The Mets should be able to afford Blevins and The Final Boss. Sure, I think the bullpen is good as is, but the Mets didn’t at the beginning at the offseason. All of a sudden, it’s fine? Is this more of the Mets inability to spend? This isn’t alright. The Mets are just spinning.
Whether or not the Mets are going to add another reliever isn’t the issue. They’ve missed out on yet another reliever. They’ve missed out on yet another high upside player. However, this time the player signed a cheap short-term deal.
The Mets now aren’t even signing the players in their wheelhouse.
Perhaps, the Mets biggest free agent remains unsigned. No, not Yoenis Cespedes. I’m of course referring to Keith Hernandez. As Adam Rubin reported, Keith remains unsigned. Most people expect him to return. I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t.
We know this isn’t the first time it was rumored that Keith was leaving SNY. There was his infamous 2009 sign-off where he hinted he may not return. As we know, Keith returned, and he has been a part of the Gary, Keith, and Ron (GKR) booth ever since. So, why is this time any different?
For starters, we had the Bobby Ojeda situation last year. Every Mets fan seemed to enjoy his work. I believe that was because Ojeda didn’t mince words. He called it as he saw it. Mets fans appreciated it regardless of whether we agreed with him or not. Unsurprisingly, it was reported the issue was money. Ojeda was replaced with Nelson Figueroa, who was presumably cheaper and definitively less critical.
We don’t currently know what the reason why Keith’s deal hasn’t been completed. We also know this isn’t the first time this offseason it was rumored the GKR booth was breaking up. There were the rumors Ron Darling may be poached by NESN to call Red Sox games. It turns out there was nothing to the rumors as Ron never had any conversations with NESN. I still question how those rumors arose.
What we do know is the Mets have been penny pinching this offseason. Instead of $12.5 million a year for Daniel Murphy, it’s around $9 million for Neil Walker. Instead of $9 million for Jon Niese, it’s $7.25 million for Bartolo Colon. Free agent Tyler Clippard earned $8.3 million last year, but the Mets did bring back Jerry Blevins for $4 million. Then there’s every Mets fans’ favorite, Cespedes was paid $10.5 million last year, and he remains unsigned (he seems to want double that). In his stead is the $5.75 million Alejandro De Aza. The total savings of those moves is $14.3 million.
Sure, I didn’t include the $8.25 million to Asdrubal Cabrera. That would reduce savings to $6.05 million. However, I also didn’t include the retirement of Michael Cuddyer, which took $12.5 million off the books. In total, that’s $18.55 million in savings. The Mets have increased revenues and attendance, and yet, they’re still cutting corners. Put aside your feelings on the wisdom of these moves, it’s fair to say the Mets saved money in each mechanation.
With that in mind, why should we feel the Wilpons will act differently with SNY? They already did it with Ojeda. Is Keith really immune to cost cutting measures? I’d argue no, and admittedly fans are partially to blame.
Be honest with yourself. If Keith is gone, will you stop watching Mets games in 2016? Of course not. You’re watching them to see if they can go back to the World Series. As we all know, there is higher attendance figures and higher ratings when a team is good. The Mets could hire Joe Buck and Bobby Bonilla to call the games, and you’d still watch. It may be on mute, but you’d still watch.
That’s the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Keith wasn’t re-signed. The Mets are good again. SNY doesn’t need GKR to help drive ratings. They have a good team to do that. With all that said, I still believe Keith will be back next year.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he wasn’t.
The Mets lost the World Series in large part due to the bullpen blowing three leads in the eighth inning or later. Normally, this would be a point of emphasis in the offseason, but I think there were more pressing issues there:
If these issues are not addressed, I’m not sure it matters if anyone is added to the bullpen. If they are resolved, the Mets have the makings of a terrific bullpen in 2016.
First and foremost, the Mets have a terrific closer in Jeurys Familia. He’s the rare closer that can come in and get a team out of a jam. He’s the rare closer that can go for more than three outs. He’s coming off a year in which he recorded 43 saves, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any better, he developed the devastating splitter.
The issue becomes who will be the other six people in the bullpen. For the other six people you want a 7th inning guy, an 8th inning guy, a long man, and at least one lefty. That leaves you with two guys to either be an extra lefty, an extra long man, or preferably, just a good reliever.
Now, at the end of the year, everyone was clamoring for Addison Reed to replace Tyler Clippard in the 8th inning. It appears everyone will get their wish as the Mets look like they’ll keep Reed and let Clippard walk. As a Met, Reed had a 1.17 ERA with a 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9. That’s elite, but it may also be unsustainable.
Reed has a career 4.01 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9. There could be many reasons for the improvement with the Mets. For starters, Reed improves as the year progresses. In April and May, his career ERA is over 4.00, but from August on it’s under 1.35. Ultimately, it’s great to have a reliever who gets better as the year goes on.
Furthermore, it’s nice having someone with closing experience so the Mets don’t have to overextend Familia during the regular season.
For me, this is obvious. The Mets need to go with Hansel Robles here. He’s a guy who has the ability to get lefties and righties out, and he can go for more than three outs.
In 2015, he had a 3.67 ERA with a 1.019 WHIP and a 10.2 K/9. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Once a rookie has pitched for a while, there is tape on him. Typically, this results in some struggles for the rookie until he adjusts. However, Robles got better as the year progressed. Here are his first and second half splits:
- First Half: 4.37 ERA with a 1.191 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9
- Second Half: 3.16 ERA with a 0.891 WHIP and a 12.1 K/9
Like Reed, he got stronger as the year progressed. His was criminally under utilized in a World Series that saw the Mets blow three late inning leads only to lose in extra innings. The Mets shouldn’t make the same mistake in 2016. It’s time to use Robles.
Next to Familia closing, Sean Gilmartin being the long man is the biggest lock in the bullpen. He had a 2.67 ERA with a 1.186 WHIP and a 8.5 K/9. He took a strangle hold on this job, and there’s no reason to take it away from him.
Going into the playoffs, this was the Mets biggest question mark. Fortunately, Jon Niese took over the role quite successfully. However, he will not be an option to re-join the bullpen until Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John surgery, which will not be until around the All Star break.
Speaking of injuries, that was the reason the Mets didn’t have a LOOGY. At different times, they had Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Dario Alvarez, and Jack Leathersich go down with injuries. Blevins is free agent, but he’s a candidate to return. Alvarez should be healthy for Opening Day. The Mets also have intriguing prospect Josh Smoker.
There are plenty of viable options here. The Mets should be able to carry one or two LOOGYs from this group.
After taking the above into account, there will be one or two remaining spots remaining. There are a number of viable candidates:
Erik Goeddel. He is injury prone, but he has good numbers. He had a 2.43 ERA with a 1.000 WHIP and a 9.2 K/9. Those are good mumbers. Numbers that were good enough to land him on the NLDS roster. He should be part of the 2016 bullpen.
Carlos Torres. There are many things you can say about Torres, but the most important one is he’s always available to take the ball. He has a career 4.26 ERA with a 1.357 WHIP and a 7.9 K/9. However, there is value in having someone that can take the ball.
Logan Verrett. He was all over the place last year. He was a starter and a reliever. He kept bouncing back and forth. It didn’t hurt his performance. He had a 3.03 ERA with a 0.879 WHIP and an 8.4 K/9. He should be in the mix.
Jenrry Mejia. He’s one more positive test away from his career being over. He won’t be available until around the All Star Break. He’s likely to be released, which is odd since the Mets haven’t had problems with steroids guys under the Sandy Alderson regime. If he isn’t released, he could help this team in the bullpen. Personally, I’d rather him gone.
Rafael Montero. There was a time the organization believed he was better than Jacob deGrom. When that proved to be false, he was placed in the bullpen to start 2015. The Mets did stretch him out to make go to a six man rotation. He got hurt, and he disappeared. Given the Mets rotation, if he’s going to help the Mets, it’s going to have to be in the bullpen.
Looking over all these options, there is no reason to go outside the organization for bullpen help. Except for Reed, these relievers are cheap, young, and talented. We don’t know the Mets financial situation, but we do know that even if there is no money to spend, the bullpen will be in great shape.
The best part is even if it isn’t, there’s many quality choices in reserve, and that’s just from the players we know.
Look, this is Sandy Alderson’s team. He decided to keep the players he kept and trade the players he traded. He pulled off the trades and signed the free agents. However, he was able to do a lot of what he did because he was left with good players after Omar Minaya was terminated.
Here are the players in the 40 man roster who have a link to Omar Minaya (asterisked players are players obtained with players combined by Minaya and Alderson):
Eric Campbell – 2008 draft pick.
Darrell Ceciliani – 2009 draft pick.
Jacob deGrom – 2010 draft pick.
Lucas Duda – 2007 draft pick.
Jeurys Familia – 2007 amateur free agent signing.
Wilmer Flores – 2007 amateur free agent signing.
Erik Goeddel – 2010 draft pick.
Matt Harvey – 2010 draft pick
Juan Lagares – 2006 amateur free agent signing.
Steven Matz – 2009 draft pick.
Jenrry Mejia – 2007 amateur free agent signing.
Akeel Morris -2010 draft pick.
Daniel Murphy – 2006 draft pick.
Bobby Parnell – 2005 draft pick.
Hansel Robles – 2008 amateur free agent.
Noah Syndergaard – part of Dickey trade (see d’Arnaud).
Ruben Tejada – 2006 amateur free agent.
Again, these players are in the roster because Alderson kept them. The decision of who to keep and trade is important. That is what makes them Alderson’s players and team. Additionally, while It was Alderson that hired Terry Collins, it was Minaya who brought him into the Mets organization.
However, it is important to truly acknowledge Minaya’s role, especially when he has been unfairlyand wrongly marginalized.
You see I was on the same Jet Blue flight as Omar Minaya. The photo with this post was Minaya and me in the terminal before the flight. He was accessible to Mets fans who wanted to shake his hand and take a picture. No one, and I mean no one, had the “courage” to mock him on the flight.
Additionally, this should dispel the notion that Minaya left the Mets with a depleted farm system. On the contrary, he built a strong farm system that helped make up this team. Minaya had his faults, and he probably deserved to be fired when he was. That doesn’t mean we should ignore his work.
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t extend our gratitude to him for what he left behind.
During the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets selected Sean Gilmartin to be an additional lefty in the bullpen. He was not viewed as a lefty specialist, but the Mets did view him as a possibility to join Josh Edgin in that role.
During Spring Training, it was discovered that Edgin needed Tommy John surgery, thereby ending his year. Right on the eve of Opening Day, the Mets traded for lefties Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. Gilmartin made the team, but he was suddenly a man without a role. It didn’t help that he started the year poorly.
After his first four appearances, he had an ERA of 6.00. He then ripped off a torrid stretch into the 4th of July where he only allowed three runs in 26 appearances and 23.1 innings pitched. In six of those appearances, he pitched more than one inning. He became a viable part of the bullpen.
Right now, he’s not only the long man out of the pen, but he’s the only viable lefty. He’s not a LOOGY, and he’s not their best pitcher against lefties, but he’s effective enough (.267/.319/) to pitch against them. Truth be told, he’s much better against righties (.216/.294/.278). In his 47 appearances, he’s gone more than one inning on 15 different occasions, including one stellar three inning outing. He created a role for himself as the long man out if the pen.
Overall, he is 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA (2.60 FIP), and a 1.216 WHIP. The eye test says he’s had a good year. His FIP suggests he’s been excellent this year. With the Mets’ current lefty situation, he will likely be on the playoff roster. That’s a far cry from a player on the Opening Day roster with no role.
As we’ve seen this year, he’s come a long way.
On April 14th, David Wright went on the DL with a hamstring, but we would later learn it could be much worse. On April 19th, Travis d’Arnaud went to the DL with a right hand fracture. He would come off the DL on June 10th, and he would return to the DL on June 23rd. Jerry Blevins went on the DL with a broken forearm on the same day as d’Arnaud’s first DL stint. On June 5th, Daniel Murphy went on the DL with a left quad injury.
These injuries were on top of season ending injuries to Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin. The Mets lost Jenrry Mejia first two injury on Opening Day and then to a steroids suspension. Rafael Montero was first an option in the bullpen and then the rotation. He went on the DL with a shoulder injury and would never pitch again. Dillon Gee was in and out of the rotation, and he went on the DL. Eventually, he went into the doghouse.
There was also the issues of ineffectiveness. Lucas Duda started out hot, and then got really, really cold. He had trouble carrying the offense. It’s no wonder his back went out. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was terrible, and he was traded to the Angels. When Nieuwenhuis flopped with the Angels, the Mets and their dreadful offense took him back. Of course, Michael Cuddyer had a typical first year with the Mets.
Through all of this, Collins kept it together. It was a miracle. The Mets should not have been in position to make trades. They were in a small part because the Nationals didn’t run away with it. A larger part was Collins holding it together. Then when he finally had a real MLB roster, his abilities as a tactician into question.
He started making questionable choices, and he cost his team some games. Then the season defining series against the Nationals. Collins said he was treating it like a playoff series. He made a number of moves. He was brilliant. However, it leaves me to question which is the true Terry Collins. Is he the man that is better at getting the most out of a team? Is he a guy that can jeopardize a game with questionable moves? Is he the guy that can pull it together to make all the right moves when a series is in the line?
Is he all these things? I don’t know. Part of the reason why is this is Collins first real pennant race as the team to beat. Another reason is he’s never had a team this good. Finally, he’s never been in the playoffs. He’s going to get his chance now.
It’s funny that with no new contract, this could be Collins first and last chance at a World Series. I hope he gets it. Not just because I’m a Mets fan, but because he’s a good man. He’s spent his life in baseball, and he has earned his chance.
I just hope when the time comes we see the Collins that managed against the Nationals.
NOTE: hat tip to @koosman2pointOh for his suggestion on this post.
Initially, Hansel Robles was supposed to be a stop gap when Jerry Blevins was injured. He was only supposed to be up until the Mets could find a left-handed replacement. He was only supposed to be up until Vic Black and Bobby Parnell was ready.
He was recommended by Wally Backman because he was “really throwing the ball good.” Terry Collins liked him from Spring Training because he had a good arm, and how he responded to his demotion. It’s probably why he was promoted over seemingly more logical options like Jack Leathersich and Zack Thornton.
Well, Robles has stuck. He’s shown a 94+ MPH fastball. He’s striking out a little more than one batter per inning. He’s 1.014 WHIP is pretty good. However, none of that is his trademark. His trademark is his quick pitch. A page right out of the LaTroy Hawkins handbook. There’s no stopping him, not even his catcher, Travis d’Arnaud.
Once the batter is in the box, he’s pitching. There’s nothing illegal about it, but boy dies it get the opposition hopping mad. He’s psyching out the opponents. He’s getting better.
Robles was good in the first half limiting batters to a triple slash line of .214/.287/.321. In the second half, he’s only allowed a triple slash line of .171/.236/.427. His WHIP dropped from 1.191 to 0.845. He’s gone from 7.5 K/9 to 11.8. What’s even better is he has no platoon splits. That’s not true. He had a bit of a reverse platoon split. Righties are hitting .215/.300/.430, and lefties are hitting .153/.190/.271.
If not for the Addison Reed addition, Robles would be the leading candidate for the seventh inning. Now? He’s the top guy in the pen in the sixth inning and pressure situations. He’s pretty much a lock for the postseason roster. Not too bad for a guy who was never supposed to be here and never was supposed to stick.
I’m looking forward to him quick pitching the Mets to a World Series title.
Rumor has it the Mets will have Steven Matz rejoin the rotation when he comes off the DL. During the Mets recent run, I began to think the Mets should use Matz out of the bullpen. I never really wrote anything about it because I wasn’t sure it was a good idea with any restrictions that may be placed on him.
However, two things recently changed my mind:
It’s no secret the Mets bullpen, outside of Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia, is weak. They had trouble holding an eight run lead last night. Last week, they blew a six run lead to the Padres. They need to sure things up.
Now, the Mets are down an important piece of Blevins. Admittedly, he’s been gone for most of the year, and he couldn’t be relied upon to return this year.
I’m also convinced after last night the Mets aren’t that serious about innings limits. How could you? Not only have we learned that Mets starters have thrown more innings than any other team, but they also let Matt Harvey pitch two extra innings with a huge lead. If they are serious, Dillon Gee could make those starts.
With all that said, I think the Mets should take a page from the 2008 Rays book and put Matz in the bullpen. In 2008, David Price made one start and four bullpen appearances. He saved Game 7 of the ALCS en route to a World Series appearance. Since that time, Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Sure, he had the stuff, but I’m also sure the early postseason experience helped.
Also, keep in mind if the Mets make the playoffs, that’s where Matz would go anyway. If that’s the case, why not give him some experience there now instead of throwing him in without any relief appearances in the playoffs. Put it this way, in a big spot, do you want to see Steven Matz or Hansel Robles?
So, if the Mets are truly interested in winning this year, Matz needs to go to the bullpen as soon as his DL stint is over. The Mets made win-now decisions with the Yoenis Cespedes trade and the Tyler Clippard trade. They’re all-in. When you’re all in, you don’t hold back.
Matz to the bullpen is the only solution.