John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets have given every indication that improving the bullpen is going to be the priority for them this offseason, though to what extent is quite fuzzy as Brodie Van Wagenen has been making the case that he's counting on Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz to have bounce-back seasons.
And, oh by the way, Will Smith -- arguably the best reliever on the market -- signed with the Braves on Thursday as the NL East champs took a big step to strengthen what was an area of weakness for them in 2019.
Smith got $39 million over three years, and the Mets apparently weren't willing to spend that much, at least in part because they're already paying Familia $10 million a year for two more years.
But if they're serious about winning big in 2020 and they're not going to spend significantly on a starting pitcher to replace Zack Wheeler, as seems to be the case, they need to get aggressive if they're going to add at least a couple of quality relievers.
Mets fans can only hope that Van Wagenen is merely mouthing a party line regarding Familia and Diaz, and that he's not actually banking on them to be dominant late-inning relievers next season.
Yes, bullpen performance tends to be volatile from year-to-year, but Familia has had command issues for much of the last two seasons, and there's just no way to know what to expect after Diaz's horrendous season -- especially since his problems seemed to be as much mental as whatever mechanics issues were affecting his slider.
With that in mind, I don't understand how Van Wagenen can be talking about possibly moving Seth Lugo to the starting rotation in 2020.
It might be an intriguing idea to see what he could do as a starter, but without Lugo's brilliance out of the pen in the second half last season, the Mets never would have made a run at the wild card. And even if Lugo can't be a traditional closer because of workload issues, he can be extremely valuable as a multiple-inning reliever if used creatively.
Robert Gsellman hasn't shown the consistency to be counted on transitioning back to a starting role, either, so as such I think the Mets need to sign a proven starter -- or re-sign one, since bringing back Zack Wheeler is the ideal scenario.
But with teams like the Astros and Yankees, and perhaps others as well, believing they can turn him into more of a dominant starter, it's hard to believe the Mets are willing to get into a bidding war for Wheeler.
If they thought that much of him they had plenty of opportunity to lock him up, even as late as during the 2019 season.
No, it feels as if the Mets are going to try and get by without a proven No. 5 starter, basically seeing Marcus Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler, but one way or another that's going to put more pressure on the bullpen.
So if that's their priority, they should be looking to move quickly, especially now as teams who might have had an interest in Will Smith surely will turn their attention to some of the other top free agent relievers.
This is a nice thought for the Mets, but better for a team that already has a strong bullpen and can take a gamble on a potential difference-maker.
In reality, Betances probably carries too much risk for a team like the Mets that has limited money to spend on the pen and needs some late-inning certainty. He'll be 32 in March after missing essentially the entire 2019 season due to a shoulder/lat injury and then the Achilles tear suffered on in September in his first appearance. He also has a history of occasionally losing his control, to the point where the Yankees mostly avoided using him in the 2017 postseason.
Even if he's willing to take a one-year deal at $8-10 million, that would eat into the Mets' money allotted to the bullpen.
At age 32, the right-hander has been a journeyman middle reliever who either found something late last season to elevate his performance or merely got on a hot streak for the Nationals the last couple of months of the season, pitching well in the postseason as something of a co-closer along with Sean Doolittle.
That's the risk any team takes in signing him to a multi-year deal, considering he was released each of the last two springs, by the Rays in 2018 and the Angels in 2019. Still, the way he finished, he'll probably command a two-year, $20 million deal.
Here's a guy who would seem to be worth taking a chance on signing. A journeyman starter who was ineffective in that role for the Giants last season, the left-hander found new life as a reliever after being traded to the Brewers, as his fastball had more velocity -- in the 95 mph range -- and his signature curve ball was a dominant pitch for him.
Used in high-leverage spots, Pomeranz made 25 appearances for the Brewers, pitching to a 2.39 ERA while racking up 46 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. One scout predicted that because the lefty was so impressive, he could get a three-year deal at $8-9 million a year.
He has the stigma of giving up the home run to Howie Kendrick that essentially lost the World Series for the Astros, but it was more a case of exceptional hitting than a bad pitch-- a cutter at the knees on the outside part of the plate.
More to the point, Harris seems like an ideal candidate for the Mets as a reliever who has been something of a model of consistency, pitching to an ERA under 3.00 in four of his last five seasons, including a dominant 1.50 in 2019. He's 35, so age could be a concern, but he's not really a power guy, relying heavily on his curve ball and control.
Still, that age figures to limit him to a two-year deal in the $20-24 million range.
The former Met could be a nice fit, with his sidearm style providing a different look in the pen compared to other relievers. The right-hander bounced back from a torn Achilles to finish strong in 2019 for the Astros, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 28 appearances, and then had a solid postseason, allowing three runs in 10 appearances.
At age 36, he won't command more than a two-year deal, probably at $6-8 million a year.