Sean Gilmartin

Get Rid Of Rafael Montero Now

Last night, the score was tied 2-2 entering the 10th inning. With the heavy bullpen use of his key relievers, Terry Collins was certainly justified in pulling Addison Reed after one inning. However, for some reason, Collins decided the move that best helped the Mets win that game last night was to bring in Rafael Montero. It was the latest incident in what has been a bizarre fascination with him.

There was a time back in 2014 where Montero was regarded as the Mets best pitching prospect. In fact, he was better regarded than Jacob deGrom. Believe it or not, the belief was justifiable. Back then, Montero was a three pitch pitcher that had a fastball he could get into the mid 90s. With that, he had a pretty good change-up and slider. In fact, he still does. However, what set Montero apart back then was he had exceptional control. That control has escaped him, and as a result, he’s not even a shadow of the highly touted prospect.

During his time with the Mets, we have seen Montero get chance after chance after chance. It’s a mixture of his talent, injuries, and just pure stubbornness to move on from him. Last season, Montero was the first player cut from Major League camp in Spring Training. He struggled so much in Triple-A, he was actually demoted to Double-A. However, due to the Mets pitching staff becoming a M*A*S*H* unit, he was called up to the majors. He rewarded their faith by pitching to an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP in nine appearances, and somehow, he probably wasn’t even that good.

After that season, he is still somehow with the organization. In the offseason, the Mets had to make multiple 40 man moves to accommodate free agent signings. The Mets would DFA Ty Kelly. In separate deals, they traded both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa for cash. Each one of these players has either had some measure of major league success, had some value to the team, or had some level of promise.

It’s just not the Mets front office. It’s also Collins. Last night, he had a well rested Sean Gilmartin, and instead he went with Montero. Keep in mind, Gilmartin has had success with the Mets as a long reliever. In 2015, Gilmartin made 50 appearances going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP. That season is better than anything Montero has ever done in the majors.

Arguably, Gilmartin on his worst day is better than what you can expect from Montero. Montero entered the game and did what you expected him to do . . . he lost it. In 0.1 innings, he allowed three hits and four runs. The only out he recorded was on a sacrifice fly hit to the right field wall.

Including last night’s game, Montero has made 30 appearances and 12 starts going 1-7 with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP. On the season, Montero is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA and a 3.600 WHIP. His BB/9 is an almost impossibly high 10 .8. It is all part of Montero not being the same pitcher the MEts thought he was. It continues the trens of Montero getting worse each and every season.

The Mets shouldn’t even wait for Jeurys Familia to be available on Thursday to send Montero to Triple-A. Send him on the first plane back. Bring up Paul Sewald for a day if you want an extra bullpen arm. If you want to lengthen what is a short bench, call up Matt Reynolds, which as an aside, may not be a bad move considering the poor defensive options the Mets have at third base. Seriously, the Mets should do anything . . . literally anything because anything is better than having to see Montero pitch in another game.

Reyes & Montero Were The Difference 

This game came down to Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero. What do you think happened?  Of course they lost and spoiled a nice effort from Zack Wheeler 

The only run scored off Wheeler was a first inning Odubel Herrera solo home run.  From there, Wheeler was far from perfect and battled himself and the Phillies. The second inning was his only 1-2-3 inning. 

In the third, Cesar Hernandez singled to lead-off the inning, and he stole second on a horrendous throw by Travis d’Arnaud. The throw was to Neil Walker who wasn’t even the middle infielder covering on the play. Wheeler then issued a walk to Herrera to put runners on first and second with one out. 

Wheeler got back-to-back groundouts from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders to put an end to the Phillies biggest rally of the night off of him. 

Wheeler would depart after five innings and 99 pitches. His final line was five innings, four hits, one run, one earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

He’d leave on the long side due to a Mets first inning rally. 

Michael Conforto, leadoff man extraordinaire, would earn a leadoff walk off Phillies starter Zach EflinYoenis Cespedes then earned a one out walk of his own. Conforto would then score on a Jay Bruce RBI single. 
Cespedes went to third on the play, and he would score on a wild pitch during the Walker at-bat. It’s a good thing Cespedes scored there because the Mets offense would do nothing from there on out. 

For the rest of the game, the Mets only amassed three more hits and no one would reach third. This is troubling considering Eflin’s career ERA is 5.54 and the Phillies have a mediocre bullpen. 

In the sixth, Hansel Robles struggled issuing a one out walk to Tommy Joseph and hitting Cameron Rupp. At this point, I’m sure Rupp has had enough of Robles. Terry Collins did as well lifting him for Josh Smoker with two outs in the inning. 

Smoker struck out Brock Stassi to get out of the inning. He’d start the seventh getting the first two out before giving up a Herrera single.  Fernando Salas came on and got out of the inning. 

Unfortunately, Salas couldn’t get out of the eighth. After getting the first two out, he walked Rupp. He then induced a pop up to Freddy Galvis which Jose Reyes Luis Castilloed.

A hustling Rupp went to third and the slow jogging Galvis would only go to first. It would cost both teams. 

Jerry Blevins came on for Salas, and his steak of stranding 11 batters would end.  Andres Blanco ripped a double into left field. It would have scored two, but upon replay, it was determined to have hopped the wall for a ground rule double. With that, it was a 2-2 instead of a 3-2 game. 
The Reyes error cost the Mets a run, and Galvis’ lack of hustle cost the Phillies. Had Galvis ran, he might’ve been in second. If he was on second, he scores on a ground rule double. 

Blevins got out of the jam, and Addison Reed mowed down the Phillies in the ninth. 

In the ninth, Reyes drew a two out walk and took off initially on a pitch in the dirt. He stopped half way and was only safe because Hernandez pegged him in the back with a throw. It wound up not mattering as d’Arnaud grounded out to end the inning. 

With Reyes’ horrible game and Collins double switched Rafael Montero into the game with Wilmer Flores taking over at third and batting fifth (pitchers spot when Juan Lagares was double switched into the game in the seventh). 

For some reason, Collins has been loathed to use Sean Gilmartin no matter how much the bullpen could use some length or how much Montero struggles. It costs the Mets. 

Saunders led off the 10th with a single off Montero.  Even with him having to freeze on a rope hit in his direction, he went to third on the Joseph single. Then, for some reason, Collins didn’t bring the infield in. 

It didn’t really matter. Rupp hit a deep sacrifice fly which would be the only out Montero would record. Galvis would follow with a single putting runners on first and second. 

Aaron Altherr then hit a pinch hit RBI single to center. On the play, Lagares made a good throw home, but d’Arnaud couldn’t corral it. 

On a night where many Mets struggled, perhaps no one struggled more than d’Arnaud. He was 0-4 with the two miscues. What am I saying?  Reyes and Montero were worse. 

In any event, Collins was finally forced to go to Gilmartin. Gilmartin pitched reasonably well, but the two inherited runners scored when Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t have enough range to get a ball hit up the middle. While Cabrera is as sure handed as it gets, he really lacks range. 

With that, the Mets had a frustrating and downright embarrassing 6-2 loss dropping them to .500. It’s their fourth consecutive loss. 

Game Notes: Walker still doesn’t have an extra base hit as a left-handed batter this year. Conforto was 0-4 with the one walk, one run, and two strikeouts. Collins had his excuse not to play him tomorrow. 

Despite Losing Mets Accomplished Primary Objective 

A baseball season is 162 games. While you want to win each and every game, there are games where there may be a goal other than just winning a game. After last night’s 16 inning victory leading to Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles being unavailable tonight was one of those nights.

The pen was limited and exhausted meaning Noah Syndergaard had to go deep in the game. Syndergaard mostly accomplished his job lasting six innings. 

It seemed as if Syndergaard was pitching more to contact than usual. It reflected in the first inning rally that saw a Gordon lead off single, error, and sacrifice fly to put the Marlins up 1-0. 

Despite that rally, Syndergaard was mostly effective with a final line of 6.0 innings, six hits, two runs, one earned, no walks, and four strike outs. He got through six having thrown just 87 pitches. As it turns out, he was lifted with his finger nail tearing off:

The Marlins needed their starter to go as deep just as much as the Mets did. However, with a Mets offense working the count against Edison Volquez, and with him pitching on short rest with today’s scheduled starter Adam Conley, he would only last 4.2 innings. 

Unfortunately, the Mets couldn’t take full advantage of Volquez. In the third, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. Michael Conforto, starting in place of Yoenis Cespedes because Cespedes has the flu, hit a deep sacrifice fly scoring Curtis Granderson.

It was the only run they’d score in the inning, but at least it tied the score up at one. 

The Mets took the lead in the fifth with Lucas Duda absolutely crushing a home run to deep center:

Unfortunately, Syndergaard couldn’t hold onto the lead. In the bottom of the inning, he allowed three straight one out singles to Miguel RojasTyler Moore, and Dee Gordon to tie the game. 

The runners would advance on a J.T. Realmuto groundout putting runners on second and third with two out. That’s when Thor reached back and struck out Christian Yelich with a 100 MPH fastball. 

The Mets had a chance to get Syndergaard the lead back , and they squandered it. Jose Reyes earned a lead-off walk, and he a advanced to third on Syndergaard’s sacrifice bunt. The Mets couldn’t push Reyes, and the team wouldn’t get another real chance. 

For the first time all season, Reyes had a good game going 1-2 with two walks. With the game, Reyes’ batting average is now at .100. 

For the second straight game, it was a battle of the bullpens. The difference was the Mets did not definitively have the upper hand with the tired and unavailable arms. 

In the seventh, Rafael Montero hit into trouble loading the bases with one out. At that point, Terry Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to get both Yelich out and get out of the jam. Blevins would with a little help from Conforto:

Now, despite T.J. Rivera being sent down to make room for Sean Gilmartin, Collins decided to go with Josh Edgin to pitch the final two innings. Collins did this despite Edgin’s early season struggles and the fact that it was Gilmartin’s turn in the Las Vegas rotation. 

It was a messy eighth that saw Edgin allow a lead-off single to Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna was then erased when Justin Bour grounded into the 6-6-3 double play. Right after that, Edgin hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch. Forunately, Edgin was able to escape the inning by striking out Ichiro Suzuki

In the ninth, Edgin wasn’t so lucky. He gave up a lead-off walk to Rojas, who would score from first on a walk-off two out double by Realmuto. 

While Bruce was hustling, his lack of range showed on the play.  It also didn’t help the ball took a huge hop off the wall. Bruce had zero chance to throw out Rojas. It’s possible if that was someone else out there, they get to the ball quicker. However, it’s likely Rojas scores there no matter who was in right. 

While you wanted the win, the Mets came out of that game only needing to use Blevins. To that end, the game was a successful one for the Mets even if it wasn’t a victorious one. 

Game Notes: It appears Granderson is the new lead-off hitter with his leading off the fourth time this year. Reyes returned to the line-up after a mental health day. Neil Walker got the day off, and Wilmer Flores got his first start of the year against a right-handed pitcher. Flores was 0-4. 

Sewald and Rowen May Force a Roster Move

During Spring Training, Paul Sewald and Ben Rowen have emerged as real possibilities for the Opening Day bullpen. The issue with adding either player to the Opening Day roster is neither reliever is on the 40 man roster. Moreover, there is currently no room on the 40 man roster. Therefore, if the Mets want to carry either Sewald or Rowen on the Opening Day roster, the team is going to have to make a roster move.

The first possibility is putting David Wright on the 60 day disabled list. At this point in time, Wright is still not throwing, and there is no known timetable as to when he will be able to throw. Accordingly, it is eminently possible he will need an extended stay on the disabled list. If so, putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list would open up one spot.

The issue arises if Wright does not need a stay on the 60 day disabled list or if the Mets were going to look to add both Sewald and Rowen to the roster. To that end, there are some players who could be moved off the roster.

Normally, this is where most Mets fans would point to Rafael Montero. However, Montero has pitched quite well this Spring. It’s more than the 2.70 ERA. Montero has been trusting his stuff more, and he has been pounding the strike zone. As a result, we are finally starting to see what the Mets have seen with their decision to keep Montero on the 40 man roster all these years. Now, if you are keeping Montero, this means someone else is going to need to be removed from the roster.

The most likely candidate is Josh Edgin. Prior to his Tommy John surgery, Edgin could throw 95 MPH. With his fastball, he dominated left-handed batters, and he could hold his own against right-handed batters. Post-surgery, Edgin is throwing in the high 80s to the low 90s. He has not been the same pitchers since, and the results are no longer there. He’s also struggling this Spring. With him being out of options, it’s hard to justify having him block someone else’s path.

Erik Goeddel is another Mets reliever who struggled in 2016 that is also struggling in 2017. Last year, Goeddel pitched through bone spurs, and he had a 4.54 ERA. Unfortunately, things have not been better after the surgery. Goeddel does not seem to have his command or velocity, and as a result, he has posted a 9.95 ERA in seven appearances.

Another pitcher who struggled last year and is struggling in Spring Training is Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin was a terrific long man in 2015 to a pitcher without a role last year. He bounced back-and-forth between Triple A starter and major leauge reliever. He did not handle the transition well. Now, he is struggling yet again posting a 6;75 ERA.

Certainly, the Mets could hope that Edgin, Goeddel, or Gilmartin rebound in 2017. However, those hopes are not going to stand in the way of the team putting together the best possible bullpen they can put together on Opening Day.

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.

The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.

While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.

RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.

RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.

RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.

RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.

RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.

RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.

RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.

LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.

LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.

LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.

PREDICTION

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.

If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.

Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

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:

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.

Mets Veteran Starting Options

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:

Rubby De La Rosa

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.

Scott Feldman

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.

Edwin Jackson

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.

Kris Medlen

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.

Jon Niese

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.

Mets Internal Bullpen Options

Lets start with the caveat that the non-elite closer bullpen market has yet to fully materialize.  Once Kenley Jansen picks his team, it appears as if the market for the next tier of relievers, which includes possible Mets targets in Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara, will begin to emerge.  It is also possible the Mets could trade Jay Bruce or some other players for bullpen help.

With those caveats in mind, there are two issues confronting the Mets bullpen.  The first is that many relievers who could help the Mets in 2017 may move out of their price range, especially with Sandy Alderson announcing the team has to reduce its current payroll.  The other obvious issue is the Mets have to somehow contend with the possibility that Jeurys Familia may be gone for a significant portion of the season.  With that in mind, the Mets may very well have to look internally to fill one or more of the holes in their bullpen.

This begs the question about whether they can do it.  Here is a look at some of the options for the 2017 season to determine whether or not the Mets current bullpen issues can be solved internally:

Josh Edgin

2016 MLB Stats: 1-0, 5.23 ERA, 16 G, 10.1 IP, 1.548 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 2-2, 3.11 ERA, 43 G, 37.2 IP, 1.540 WHIP, 10.8 K/9

In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, the biggest thing that stuck out for Edgin was his loss of velocity.  Once, Edgin was a reliever who came out of the bullpen throwing 94 MPH.  In 2016, Edgin loss three MPH off his fastball, and as a result, he went from limiting right-handed batters to a .219/.286/.250 batting line in his breakout 2014 season to a .300/.400/.500 batting line in 2016.

It should be noted the numbers from the 2014 and 2016 seasons are both relatively small sample sizes.  Additionally, Edgin continued to pitch well against left-handed batters in 2016 limiting them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  With that Edgin proved he can still be an effective LOOGY out of the pen even with this reduced velocity.  If Edgin were to regain that velocity, he can fully take over the role left vacated by Jerry Blevins.

Sean Gilmartin

2016 MLB Stats: 0-1, 7.13 ERA, 14 G, GS, 17.2 IP, 1.585 WHIP, 5.6 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 9-7, 4.86 ERA, 19 G, 18 GS, 107.1 IP, 1.425 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Despite Gilmartin being an important part of the Mets 2015 bullpen, the team decided it was better for him to work on being a starting pitcher in AAA rather than him reprising his role as the long man in the bullpen.  While he started out well for the 51s, he would eventually begin to suffer some shoulder discomfort, which required a stint on the disabled list, and his stats would suffer from there.  It probably didn’t help that the Mets expected him to take cross-country flights and make multiple inning appearances out of the bullpen with three days of rest or less.  Ultimately, we have seen Gilmartin be successful in the major leagues out of the bullpen, and accordingly, we should not discount the possibility he will be successful out of the bulllpen again in 2017.

Seth Lugo

2016 MLB Stats: 5-2, 2.67 ERA,  17 G, 8 GS, 64.0 IP, 1.094 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 3-4, 6.50, 21 G, 14 GS, 73.1 IP, 1.677 WHIP, 7.6 K/9

After Lugo struggled in AAA, he was taken out of the rotation, and he was put in the bullpen.  For a guy that can max out his fastball over 95 MPH and has a terrific curveball, it seemed like the best place for him in a Mets organization with plenty of pitching depth.  When he first came up to the majors and made Anthony Rizzo look foolish with his curveball, it seemed like Lugo had a home in the bullpen.

However, with the starting pitching injuries mounting, Lugo was thrust into the rotation.  With a postseason berth on the line, he combined with fellow rookie Robert Gsellman to pitch extremely well.  It is now debatable as to whether or not the bullpen is the best use of Lugo’s talents.  It is all the more debatable when you consider the Mets rotation has some injury concerns and is likely going to deal with some innings limits.  With that in mind, while Lugo has certainly proven himself to be an effective reliever, he may be best suited to either the fifth spot in the rotation, or starting the year in the AAA rotation and being ready for the first opportunity that arises.

Paul Sewald

2016 MiLB Stats: 5-3, 3.29 ERA, 56 G, 19 SV, 65.2 IP, 1.203 WHIP, 11.0 K/9

With Sewald not being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he is now a possibility to be a part of the Mets bullpen in 2017.  The issue with Sewald is his stuff is not that impressive with him only topping out in the low 90s with his fastball.  However, that overlooks the fact that he has a good slider which he uses as an out pitch, and the fact he rarely walks batters.  In his minor league career, he has only walked 59 batters in 258.0 innings pitched.

Another factor to consider is how well he pitched in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter’s haven.  In the second half of the season, Sewald made 20 appearances going 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 10 saves, 0.95 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9.  In looking over his entire minor league career, Sewald has rarely walked batters, has struck out over 10 batters per nine, has had low ERAs, and has consistently been a good closer.  With his experience, talent, and the Mets catchers excellent pitch framing, there is every reason to believe Sewald has a legitimate chance to be a good reliever in the major leagues.

Josh Smoker

2016 MLB Stats: 3-0, 4.70 ERA, 20 G, 15.1 IP, 1.304 WHIP, 14.7 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 3-2, 4.11 ERA, 52 G, 57.0 IP, 1.474 WHIP, 12.8 K/9

The Smoker we saw with the Mets was essentially the Smoker that we have seen in his minor league career.  Smoker is a one inning reliever who strikes out a lot of batters, but he has reverse splits.  Whereas Edgin is a LOOGY, Smoker is somehow a left-handed ROOGY that gets tattooed by left-handed hitting.  Another issue for Smoker is he is only good for one inning.  Every single outing he was asked to go over one inning by the Mets, he allowed a home run.

Still, there is a place for a pitcher like Smoker in the bullpen.  His ability to generate strikeouts at a level as high as he does is rare, and it is very valuable.

Zack Wheeler

2014 Stats: 11-11, 3.54 ERA, 32 G, 32 GS, CG, SHO, 185.1 IP, 1.327 WHIP, 9.1 K/9

With Wheeler missing two seasons, the Mets have already bandied the idea of putting Wheeler and his 96 MPH fastball in the bullpen.  On the one hand, it seems like it is a good opportunity for Wheeler to get back to pitching to major league batters while keeping his inning down after missing the past two seasons while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

There are some issues with Wheeler in the bullpen.  The first is he has a tendency to lose the strike zone which is a huge problem for short inning relievers.  The second is, as we saw with Jim Henderson, Terry Collins has a tendency to overlook his relievers injury issues and overwork them anyway.  The third and final issue is what type of reliever will he be?  Is he going to be a multi-inning reliever who will be shut down for a couple of days afterwards, or is he going to be a one inning reliever expected to air it out for one inning.

The answer to that and many other questions will be resolved once the Mets ultimately decide what Wheeler is.  Is he someone that can rejoin the rotation, or is he someone forever slated to the bulllpen?  At this point, it is hard to know the answer.

Overall, the Mets have plenty of internal options to fill-out their bullpen.  Indeed, if they were to use only internal options, it is possible the Mets could build themselves a very good bullpen.  However, if the Mets were to purely stick with internal options, it remains possible the Mets may expose their starting rotation by not having pitchers like Gilmartin, Lugo, or Wheeler sufficiently stretched out to start.

Ulimately, the Mets would be wise to use some of their internal options to help build their bullpen in 2017.  With that said, the team is still going to need to obtain one or two relievers before the end of the offseason.

Cutting Payroll Is Unacceptable

Every Mets fan was elated the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $110 million contract.  With that contract on the heels of Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer, it appeared as if the Mets were finally out from under the Madoff disaster, and they were ready to spend like the big market team they were.  Turns out we were wrong . . . very wrong.

As the Winter Meetings come to a close, Sandy Alderson met with reporters, and he informed them that the Mets are not only done spending, they actually need to shed payroll before Opening Day.

That’s right.  Alderson expects the Mets to be below $150 million before Opening Day.  According to Spotrac, a payroll under $150 million would put the Mets in bottom half of payroll in the major leauges.  Worse yet, reducing the payroll would actually mean the Mets 2017 payroll will be lower than the Mets year-end 2016 payroll.  The payroll will be lower despite the Mets coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the Mets having twice increased ticket prices, and attendance having gone up each year since 2013.  With increased revenues, there is no reason for the Mets to reduce payroll.

Now, payroll isn’t everything.  As we saw in 2015, it is possible to compete without having one of the top payrolls in the majors.  Ultimately, it is not payroll that wins, it’s talent.  Looking over the Mets major league roster, the team still does not have everything it needs to win in 2017.

First and foremost, the bullpen is in disarray.  The Mets are likely to lose Jerry Blevins to free agency, and it is likely the team will lose Fernando Salas.  Right there, the Mets need to obtain another LOOGY unless you believe Josh Edgin will suddenly find his lost velocity or Josh Smoker‘s entire career of reverse splits will suddenly reverse itself.  Morevover, the Mets will need a seventh inning reliever, which is something the team has seemingly always needed in the Sandy Alderson Era.  Further compounding the issue is the prospect of a lengthy Jeurys Familia suspension.  With all those factors in mind, this team is 2-3 arms short in the bullpen.

Speaking of arms, it is questionable the Mets have enough starting pitching.  Yes, the team does seem to have seven starters, but most of them carry question marks and/or innings restrictions.  Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz are all coming off season ending surgeries.  To ask them to make 30 innings and throw over 200 innings may be unrealistic.  Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo helped pitch the Mets to the postseason last year, but they will likely be on innings restrictions in 2017 meaning if they are in the Opening Day rotation, they will likely need to be shut down by September.  Finally, no one can reasonably expect anything from Zack Wheeler after he hasn’t pitched in over two years.  With that in mind, the Mets could use a veteran starter who could eat up innings as the fifth starter, and also could serve as the long man in the bullpen once the Mets are ready to hand the reigns to a Gsellman, Lugo, or Wheeler.

The bench could probably use some help as well.  Rene Rivera is a nice backup catcher, but he’s better suited on a team that has a catcher who is not as injury prone as Travis d’Arnaud.  Arguably, the team could also use another bat for the bench, especially when you consider the battle for the final spot on the bench will be between Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera.  Given Kelly’s switch hitting ability, and Terry Collins apparently fondness for him, it is likely Kelly will win that competition.

Overall, these are a lot of holes to fill.  Arguably, being able to trade Bruce will fill one of them, but will it?  If the Mets are indeed looking to slash payroll, how could the team take back salary in the deal?  Even assuming the Mets can bring back salary in the deal, doesn’t that mean the team will be prevented from adding another player or two in free agency?

Ultimately, that’s the problem.  The team’s needs are not likely going to be filled internally unless you believe Wheeler will be a dominant reliever, Sean Gilmartin will return to his 2015 form, Gabriel Ynoa will take a huge stride forward in his development, and Kelly starts improving at 28 years of age.  It is nice to hope this will all work out, but as history tells us, it is rare that everything breaks right for a team in one year.  No, the gaps will have to be filled by acquiring players, which will cost money.

Unfortunately, the Mets once again seem out of money.  It’s getting old, and sooner or later, it is going to cost the Mets a chance at the postseason as it nearly did last year.  When the team is raising ticket prices and the fans are still coming to the ballpark, that isn’t alright.  It’s about time the Mets start spending to at least address their needs in the offseason.