Coming into the 2016 season, the Mets should be talking about Erik Goeddel as a lock for the Mets bullpen.
In two years, Goeddel has made 41 appearances. In those 41 appearances, he has gone 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and 9.0 K/9. Advanced stats like him as well. Goeddel’s ERA+ is 150, and his FIP is 2.58. He had a low to mid 90’s fastball, curveball, and a splitter. The discussion shouldn’t be about if he’ll make the roster. No, the discussion should be what inning is he going to get.
So, why is his position on the roster in peril?
For starters, Goeddel is hurt with a lat strain. On Wednesday, he just started throwing from 120 feet to start getting ready for the season. While Goeddel is rehabbing, once long shot candidates like Jim Henderson and Josh Smoker are pitching well in Spring Training games. They are trying to force their way onto the Opening Day roster.
Ultimately, injuries are Goeddel’s biggest problem. He has had THREE TOMMY JOHN SURGERIES! Even with all of that, he still went on the 60 day DL last year with an elbow strain requiring platlet rich therapy. In sum, while Goeddel has the stuff and the results, he cannot be relied upon over the course of a 162 game season.
With everything that has gone against Goeddel in his career, it’s a flat out miracle that he made it to the majors. It’s a testament to his will, tenacity, and yes, talent helped him succeed when he made it to the majors. It’s heartbreaking that when he gets to the majors and succeeds, his elbow betrays him again.
Right now, it’s his lat. He needs to proceed cautiously because any injury to the core or legs can lead to either an arm injury or an exacerbation of an existing arm injury. The last thing anyone wants to see is Goeddel suffer another elbow problem.
So with that, Goeddel may not make the Opening Day roster. He will be heard from this year, but at no point should the Mets count on him going forward.
During this process, the Mets removed Jack Leathersich from the 40 man roster exposing him to waivers. It was certainly understandable considering he had Tommy John surgery in June meaning he probably won’t be able to pitch next year. It should be noted if the Mets wanted to keep Leathersich, they had to remove him from the 60 day DL and put him on the roster.
Not adding Leathersich back to the 40 man roster was a risk. It was a calculated risk. First, why would another team clog up a spot on the 40 man roster for a LOOGY who won’t pitch next year. Second, if you had him on the team next year, you’d have to put him on the 60 day DL next year. This would mean a higher salary for Leathersich and more MLB service time that the Mets will not benefit the Mets on the field. Finally, the Mets have plenty of bullpen options to get lefties out next year.
Next year, the Mets will have Dario Alvarez ready to go. Josh Smoker was just added to the 40 man roster. Josh Edgin is due to return from his own Tommy John surgery next year. The projected main setup men, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles, get lefties out and do not need a LOOGY to bail them out. This is all before the Mets possibly adding a LOOGY in free agency. Therefore, if you’re opening up a spot on the 40 man roster you look towards the LOOGY that won’t pitch next year. It’s a gamble, but it’s one worth taking.
Unfortunately, the Cubs claimed Learhersich. More power to them if they can carry an injured LOOGY on their 40 man roster for a full season. It wasn’t practical for the Mets to do it. It’s not practical for most teams. Sure, I could point to other players that should be removed, but truth be told they’ll be removed eventually to protect a player from the Rule 5 draft or to make room for a free agent.
The Mets made the right move here. Sometimes even when you make the right move, you’re going to get jacked.
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.
What is great about these pitchers is they can get both lefties and righties out. It eliminates the need to go to matchups late in the game. That’s important because you risk exposing a LOOGY to a right handed pinch hitter in a key spot in a game. Of course, I’m being optimistic here because I have no choice. However, this doesn’t address the need to get a lefty out in the fifth or sixth inning.
With the Dario Alvarez injury and the ineffectiveness of Eric O’Flaherty, the Mets are not going to have a LOOGY in the mold of Pedro Feliciano for the playoffs. In fact, that leaves the Mets with one effective lefty in the bullpen, Sean Gilmartin, who has reverse splits and is better suited as the long man. So where do the Mets go from here?
Let’s start with who’s not an option. We know Jerry Blevins is out for the season. I’ve also seen and heard rumblings from people for the Mets to look at Josh Smoker. There’s some problem with Smoker. First, he’s never pitched above AA. Second, his stats are deceiving. At 26, he’s old for that level thereby skewing his stats a bit. Lastly, he hasn’t pitched in over 10 days. His season is over, and I presume he shut it down. If so, he’s not ready.
So that leaves Hansel Robles to get the lefties out. Looking at his splits, he gets lefties out better than a LOOGY ever could. He is limiting them to .188/.250/.438. Sure, it seems odd using a RHP to get out a lefty, but I’m more interested in effectiveness than appearance. I wonder if Terry Collins will see it that way, or will he bring in Gilmartin to get a lefty out in a big spot?