No matter how bad the Mets are, I am in front of the TV, or I have the radio on to see how the game is going. Heck, even on the day I was married, I tipped the limo driver extra to give me score updates. Jon Niese was starting that day, and Carlos Beltran wasn’t playing due to his pre-season knee surgery, so I had to tip a little extra. I use that as the context for my going to sleep last night.
The Mets are not just playing bad baseball right now, they’re playing depressing baseball right now. It was the same thing yesterday.
To start the game, the Mets had Zack Greinke on the ropes. After Curtis Granderson earned a bases loaded walk, the Mets rally ended. Sure, it is unreasonable to expect Tommy Milone to deliver an RBI in that spot. And yes, it is hard to get on Michael Conforto for striking out in that spot considering how good he has been to start the season. The Mets offense has also been humming of late, so again, you can’t get on the offense too much. Still, it was demoralizing because with Milone on the mound, you knew the Mets needed more than just that one run.
And they did. Gregor Blanco hit a two RBI single to give the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead. After Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked, Chris Owings hit an RBI single to make it 3-1. At that point, you figured things can’t possibly get any worse. It did. Owings would break for second, and Rene Rivera would have nailed him if Owings didn’t get caught in a run-down. While this is happening, Lucas Duda notices Goldschmidt break for home, and of course, he makes a terrible throw home allowing Goldschmidt to score.
As a Mets fan, you were disgusted. Right now, the team is finding different ways to make watching them more painful. Duda reminding you of the Eric Hosmer play took the cake.
I didn’t go to bed immediately. The anger had to subside. I got to see the Granderson homer. No, I wasn’t fooled into thinking they would win the game. I feel asleep not to long after that. I didn’t even try to fight it. I subsequently missed the Rivera two run homer, and the Paul Sewald appearance.
Overall, it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to watch this team right now, and it is harder to watch them when games start at 9:30 at night. Thankfully, today’s game starts at 3:40. As a result, you will only lose sleep over them going over what transpired during the game as opposed to watching those things transpire.
Yet again, the Mets have had to turn to Rafael Montero to make a start because there weren’t better options for the Mets. There weren’t better options because Sandy Alderson believed the Mets had enough starting pitching to never need to sign a veteran signing pitcher. As we have seen, this was a miscalculation.
Lost in the excitement of the Mets having seven starting pitchers was the fact that pitchers break down. This pitching staff exemplifies this axiom. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz were coming off season ending surgeries. For his part, Matz is seemingly never healthy. Zack Wheeler hadn’t pitched in over two years due to his having Tommy John surgery and the ensuing complications therefrom. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo were terrific in September of last year, but it was against some fairly weak competition. Also, it is likely both were going to be on some form of an innings limit. Finally, there was Noah Syndergaard, who seemed indestructible.
Now, we could have anticipated Matz doing down, but the other manner in which the Mets have turned to Montero and Adam Wilk has been a surprise. No one expected Lugo to suffer a torn UCL. Syndergaard tearing his lat never could have been reasonably anticipated, nor was the Mets needing to suspend Harvey. Still, given the relative injury histories, it was certainly plausible the Mets would be down three plus pitchers at any point of the season. It was also plausible because pitchers break.
Despite this, Alderson moved both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles in separate deals. Both moves were defensible because the Mets needed space on the 40 man roster to accommodate free agent signings. Still, those arms needed to be replaced by cheap veterans who could be stashed in Triple-A, or the Mets could have signed a swingman who could have served in long relief and be available to make a spot start.
Now, we know players like Doug Fister and Colby Lewis likely weren’t signing unless they got minor league deals. Still, there were pitchers like Jon Niese and Dillon Gee available. Mets fans may not love them, but they are certainly better than Montero. There was also Scott Feldman who has served in both relief and long man roles, and he signed with the Reds for just $2.3 million. There are several other names like Jake Peavy who at least has the veteran guile to gut through five innings. Instead, the Mets stuck with Sean Gilmartin, who they won’t even trust to make a start, and they signed Wilk who is not a viable major league pitcher.
And now, the once vaunted Mets starting pitching is a mess, and it is up to Alderson to fix it. This is the same Alderson who has been very cavalier in moving pitching the past few seasons to help fix the weaknesses in teams he has built. So far, his answer has been Milone who has a 6.43 ERA in six starts this season. That’s hardly an answer.
Likely, Alderson’s real answer is to hope for some health with presumably both Matz and Lugo will be ready by the end of the month. Maybe this time the health plan with work.
With Noah Syndergaard‘s torn lat, it is once again time to revisit the Mets decision to allow Bartolo Colon to depart in free agency. It is a moment that has been revisited on multiple occasions. It was first addressed when the Mets allowed him to go to the Braves without so much as an offer. It was addressed when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo suffered injuries. Its been addressed with every struggle Robert Gsellman has had on this young season. So why not just get it out of the way for good and for all.
The Mets were correct in their decision not to re-sign Bartolo Colon.
For those clamoring for the popular player, do you know what his stats are this season? They’re not good. Through five starts, Colon is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. He’s averaging 5.2 innings per start. The only intradivision team he has handled well was the Mets. Against the Marlins, he pitched four innings allowing six runs on seven hits. Against the Phillies, he allowed four runs on 11 hits. For a Mets team that needs a stabilizing force in the rotation the can eat up innings and get some quality starts, Colon has shown that so far he is not really the answer.
If you want to argue, he certainly is a better pitcher than that, you may have an argument. However, his 77 ERA+ and his 4.40 FIP suggest you don’t have much of an argument. You could say that it’s early, but is it ever early for a 44 year old pitcher?
But this overlooks what was the real issue at the time Colon hit free agency. The Mets could not guarantee him a rotation spot. Last year, Gsellman was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 169 ERA+, and a 2.63 FIP. Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 152 ERA+, and a 4.33 FIP. On top of that, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Matz had successful surgeries and looked to be ready on Opening Day. Furthermore, Zack Wheeler was on track to be ready to be on the Opening Day roster. If everyone is healthy and in peak form, Colon was realistically the seventh or eighth best pitcher on the staff. Simply put, there was no spot for him.
Colon knew that too. That’s why he took the Braves one year $12.5 million deal. He took the deal because the Braves were guaranteeing him a rotation spot that would permit him to chase down Juan Marichal and Dennis Martinez to become the winningest Latin born pitcher in major league history. Colon chose the path with the best contract and the clearest path to the record over returning to the Mets or going to another contender.
This is no shot at him. Last year, Colon took less money and risked getting demoted to the bullpen in order to chase that elusive World Series. He just wasn’t as eager to do that this time. The Mets also weren’t eager to bring him back with their pitching depth.
Instead, the Mets used that $12.5 million this offseason. That money helped the Mets to build a bullpen. Jerry Blevins was signed for $5.5 million. Fernando Salas was signed for $3 million. Addison Reed received a $2.55 million raise, and Jeurys Familia received a $3.325 million raise. As much as the bullpen has struggled to start the season, imagine it right now without Blevins. So overall, it is not as if that $12.5 million wasn’t spent on pitching this offseason. It was. It was just spent on a bullpen that Colon was not willing to pitch in to start the season.
So no, the Mets shouldn’t be second guessed for letting Colon go to the Braves. Rather, the Mets should be questioned as to why the choice for fifth starter is between Rafael Montero or Sean Gilmartin. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded to the Orioles for cash considerations in separate deals this offseason. Scott Feldman signed with the Reds for $2.3 million. There are a number of pitchers available who could have provided a little extra depth including the player everyone loves to hate, Jon Niese. Say what you want about him, but he’s much better than Montero.
There’s also the matter that the Mets knew this could happen. Once the Mets opened the season with Lugo and Matz hurt, the team’s depth was gone. As reported by Kristie Ackert in the New York Daily News, Sandy Alderson backed off signing a pitcher like Doug Fister because he was willing to wait until late May or June for them to be healthy. Alderson willing took a gamble with the pitching depth, and he lost.
Overall, the Mets aren’t in trouble because they didn’t re-sign Colon. They are in trouble because the team purged the non-Montero options they had in the organization, and they were willing to wait almost two months to have quality major league pitching depth.
Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.
The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.
With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.
While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:
As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”
Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.
2. Lack of Urgency
As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.
3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions
According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.
As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”
Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes‘ pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.
It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.
In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”
Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.
Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.
With Noah Syndergaard slated to go on Monday, this marks the sixth straight year the Mets have had a different Opening Day starter. Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, and Matt Harvey each got a turn, but they never got the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter in a subsequent season. Hopefully with Syndergaard, this year begins a long run of Opening Day starts for a pitcher that is on threshold of being an all time great.
If Syndergaard does that, he will join nine other Mets pitchers who have made multiple Opening Day starts. Can you name them? Good luck!
At some point today, Jon Niese is going to hold a workout for teams interested in signing him. Niese needs to do this workout because: (1) he’s coming off knee surgery; and (2) he was terrible last year. Absolutely terrible. And yet, despite that, the Mets should be interested in re-signing him.
Let’s get the obvious reasons why the Mets shouldn’t be interested out of the way first. He’s a malcontent that would likely complain about the weather in San Diego. He always has an excuse for when he fails. He’d blame the pitch the catcher for the pitch he called. He’d blame the designer of the ballpark for the configuration of the outfield walls. He’d blame God for the wind patterns. He’d do all of that before admitting he hung a pitch that was hit into the second deck. More than any of this, Niese was just horrible last year. Typically, you don’t want players like this.
That is unless they are really cheap, and they have something to prove.
Niese should be both. Working in reverse, Niese, perhaps for the first time in his major league career, has something to prove. He’s coming off a year with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.587 WHIP. Quite possibly, he was the worst pitcher in all of baseball, certainly the worst starting pitcher. Because Niese is who he is, he’ll probably give you a million reasons why this happened. I’m sure he’ll say PNC Park was not suited for him, or Ray Searage was not as good a pitching coach as Dan Warthen. The Pirates probably didn’t shift as well as the Mets did. He’ll certainly blame his knee injury. At least with the knee injury, there may be an actual valid excuse, and it could be reason to buy low on Niese.
Before being traded to the Pirates, Niese was 61-61 with a 3.91 ERA, a 1.361 WHIP, and a 95 ERA+. Basically, he was a fifth starter who constantly tricked the Mets into thinking he could be more than that. It’s partially why Sandy Alderson gave him a contract extension. It’s why the Pirates traded Neil Walker to get him. Maybe he fulfills that promise one day. Likely, he doesn’t. Still, Niese has already shown he’s a quality major league pitcher.
He’s a major league pitcher that is going to come cheap. With teams seemingly being devoid of interest in him during the offseason, Niese is likely going to garner little more than a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Essentially, Niese is going to go to a team where he has an opportunity to either make the team out of Spring Training or be one of the first call-ups should a pitcher get injured or be ineffective. That being said, signing Niese is theoretically no different than the Mets recent signing of Tom Gorzelanny, or back in 2006, when they signed Darren Oliver.
For the Mets, Niese could be an intriguing bullpen arm who surprisingly showed during the 2015 postseason, he can get the big out. He may have a second act to his career as a reliever much in the same way Oliver Perez has. By focusing on one or two pitches, he could be a reliable bullpen arm like Oliver. Or maybe, he could just be more starting pitching depth for a Mets team relying on three pitchers coming off season ending surgery and two unproven starters behind them.
Maybe just maybe, the Mets should offer Niese a minor league deal to come back to the team. It isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Bartolo Colon)
And never brought to mind (Antonio Bastardo)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot (Jon Niese)
And days of auld lang syne. (Wild Card Game)
And gie’s a hand to thine (Steven Matz)
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet (Wilpons)
For auld lang syne (1986 Mets)
In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series. During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake. Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail. Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:
- Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
- Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
- Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
- Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
- Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
- Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
- Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster
The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series. The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters. In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:
- Jeurys Familia .214/.291/.325
- Tyler Clippard .137/.231/.237
- Addison Reed .253/.330/.368
- Hansel Robles .179/.287/.299
The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters. Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.
There are some caveats. First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS. Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen. Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots. This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.
So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts. Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals. Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners. Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies. According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season. Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.
However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets. As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers. Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever. With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.
From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out. Here were their stats from the 2016 season:
- Familia .239/.315/.313
- Reed .210/.264/.269
- Robles .179/.287/.299
There is also some promise with Edgin. Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size. In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.
Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out. Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.
That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out. As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.
With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.
With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.
Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.
Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.
It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)
Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season. With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia. This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.
Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.
Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.
Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York. With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are coming off season ending surgeries, and the Mets most likely don’t want them making over 30 starts and/or going over 200 innings. The Mets need someone to fill-in for those starts and eat up some innings.
Additionally, the team needs a fifth starter. If the season was going to begin today, the fifth starter would be determined by a competition between Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitchers showed enough to prove they deserve the job out of Spring Training. However, both pitchers are likely going to be on innings limits, which would prevent them from pitching the entire 2017 season unless the team skips a couple of their starts. That reverts back to the issue created by Harvey, deGrom, and Matz that the Mets need another arm to eat up some innings.
Naturally, the hope is that Zack Wheeler could be the fifth starter at some point during the season. However, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets would be hard pressed to rely upon him to provide anything during the 2017 season. It is a large reason why the Mets have at least discussed the possibility of putting Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season.
Pitchers like Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa did not show the Mets enough in 2016 to prove they can be relied upon to make more than one or two spot starts. With that, it is likely the Mets are going to need to look outside the organization for a pitcher who is willing to start the year as a fifth starter, but is willing to transition to the bullpen as the year progresses. Ultimately, the Mets are looking for someone to reprise the role that Bartolo Colon was slated to serve during the 2016 season. With that in mind, here are some available free agent pitchers who could serve in that role:
2016 Stats: 4-5, 4.26 ERA, 13 G, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
While Welington Castillo got most of the publicity, De La Rosa was another surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The reason De La Rosa was non-tendered was because there remains a real possibility he needs a second Tommy John surgery. At the moment, he has been trying to use stem cell treatment as a means to circumvent the surgery. For what it is worth, Bartolo Colon used the stem cell therapy back in 2010, and he was able to revive his major league career.
When he is healthy, De La Rosa has a live arm with him throwing a mid to high 90s fastball with a curve and slider who has shown some flashes of dominance. De La Rosa does have issues walking batters in his career, but it should be noted he was pitching to the aforementioned Castillo who is a terrible pitch framer.
Assuming the stem cell therapy will work, and further assuming De La Rosa is ready by Opening Day, the 27 year old needs a team who will help him harness his stuff and a catching staff that will help him get those borderline pitches. With that in mind, there are few places that are better fits for De La Rosa than the Mets. At a minimum, the Mets can offer the young pitcher at least a chance to pitch in the rotation while also assuring him a spot in the bullpen where he could become a lights out reliever.
2016 Stats: 7-4, 3.97 ERA, 40 G, 5 GS, 77.0 IP, 1.377 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
While Feldman has spent the majority of his career as a league average starting pitcher, the Astros moved Feldman into the bullpen in the 2016 season, and Feldman pitched well for the team in that role. What is interesting about Feldman’s success was he didn’t throw any differently out of the bullpen than he did as a starter. The main reason is that in his career as a starter, batters tend to hit Feldman much harder the third time through the lineup.
Overall, Feldman’s numbers would have been much better had he not struggled in his 14 appearances for the Blue Jays. In those 14 appearances, he pitched to an 8.40 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP. It might have just been a slump or a poor mix with the Blue Jays because Feldman has not wilted under pressure in his career. In nine postseason relief appearances, Feldman is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.
Given Feldman’s ability to pitch as a league average starter, and his being even more effective out of the bullpen, Feldman could very well be the exact pitcher the Mets need in 2017.
2016 Stats: 5-7, 5.89 ERA, 21 G, 13 GS, 84.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
For nearly 14 years, there have been 11 franchises that have taken on the mantle of being the franchise that is going to be able to figure out Jackson and help him unlock his potential. With a career losing record and a 4.65 ERA, none have been successful, and now the 32 year old is a free agent.
There is no doubt Jackson has talent. He is a five pitch pitcher that predominantly relies upon a low to mid 90s fastball and a slider. Through his tenure as the Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has been successful in helping pitchers like Jackson. Like many of the other pitchers on this list, Jackson should be aided by the Mets pitch framing. The combination of Warthen and the pitch framing has been shown to help a number of pitchers who have come to the Mets the past few seasons.
Over the last two seasons, Jackson has also begun pitching out of the bullpen. In 2015, he showed some promise in the role making 47 appearances while going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP. He would limit batters to a .218/.291/.332 batting line. Unfortunately, he regressed as a reliever in 2016 after he had failed again as a starter. Overall, as is the story with most of Jackson’s career, there is promise here, and a union with the Mets could be mutually beneficial.
2016 Stats: 1-3, 7.77 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS, 2.055 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Medlen has gone from a promising young pitcher with the Atlanta Braves to a pitcher whose career is a crossroads with him being limited during the 2016 season with shoulder issues. While these shoulder issues did not require surgery, they limited Medlen in 2016, and it had an impact on his performance. Another issue with Medlen is his having two Tommy John surgeries.
With that said, when Medlen is right, he is a good pitcher. His last year with the Braves, before he needed a second Tommy John surgery, he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. In 2015, his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery, Medlen was 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9 between eight starts and seven relief appearances. In the 2015 postseason, he made two appearances pitching six innings with a 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.
If the medicals check out, Medlen can be a very effective pitcher for someone. Considering the need to get a pitcher comfortable in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets might be a good fit.
2016 Stats: 8-7, 5.50 ERA, 29 G, 20 GS, 121.0 IP, 1.587 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
Admittedly, no Mets fan wants to see Niese in a Mets uniform again, especially after a disastrous 2016 season for Niese. However, it should be noted that Niese was dealing with a knee issue that required season ending surgery. It should also be noted Niese has been a league average pitcher under Warthen’s tutledge.
In his six seasons as a starter for the Mets, Niese was 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9. We also saw him come out of the bullpen and get some big outs in the 2015 postseason. Looking at the pitchers who are likely going to get incentivized one year deals or minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training, you can do a lot worse than Niese.
There is certainly any number of places the Mets could go this offseason. There are pitchers like Matt Harrison who are injury risks, but who can also be dominant pitchers when healthy. There are also reclamation projects like Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum. Overall, there are many different ways to go. At this point, the Mets just need to identify their guy, be patient, and let the market develop. Once it does, the Mets could obtain a pitcher who could very well be a difference maker during the 2017 season.