John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets are already banking on a big bounce-back season from Edwin Diaz, arguably baseball's best closer in 2018. Why not double down on that approach for 2020, now that Blake Treinen is a free agent?
That way they only need to go 1-for-2 on the reliever volatility theory to fix their bullpen in spectacular fashion.
There is bound to be interest from several teams, all hoping Treinen can again find the turbo-sinker that made him nearly unhittable two seasons ago, pitching to a 0.78 ERA.
Already there are reports the Yankees will be one of those teams, and perhaps they see Treinen as a replacement for Dellin Betances, the four-time All-Star who is a free agent himself after a season lost almost entirely to a shoulder injury and then a partial Achilles tendon tear.
In itself that could be a significant development for the Mets, as they have indicated at least some interest in signing Betances.
But their bullpen problems from last season beg for creativity, especially if it's going to be the focus of their limited spending this off-season, as Brodie Van Wagenen has also indicated in his public comments so far.
So where is Bold Brodie anyway?
As it turned out, of course, the new GM was too bold a year ago, pushing hard to make the trade for Diaz and Robinson Cano in November when a little more patience and savvy could have netted the same two players without surrendering top prospect Jarred Kelenic, so badly did the Mariners want out from under the Cano contract.
Likewise, he jumped out in front of the reliever market, thinking that three years, $30 million for Jeurys Familia would look good compared to what some others got. Except it wound up in the same range as that of more enticing relievers, and then Familia had a train-wreck season that has the Mets hoping for a bounce-back from him as well.
With all of that in mind, perhaps Van Wagenen has decided to take a more measured approach to his second off-season, which presumably would include not declaring the Mets the NL East favorites or daring the rest of the division to "come get us."
Still, the Mets need to spend on pitching, and if it's going to be in the bullpen, well, they need to get busy.
In Will Smith and Drew Pomeranz they've already taken a pass on the top two lefties in the free agent market, and maybe the top two relievers, righty or lefty.
Yes, giving Pomeranz a four-year deal is a huge gamble by the Padres, given his brief period of dominance as a reliever for the Brewers, but look at it this way: at $32 million it's only $2 million more than the Mets committed to Familia, and right now I'd argue that Pomeranz is a much better bet to succeed in 2020.
In any case, the point is there isn't a lot else to get excited about among the free-agent relievers. By far the two highest-ceiling guys are Betances and now Treinen, whose crash-and-burn last season was as unexpected as that of Diaz.
In fact, Treinen had more of a track record than Diaz, having put together some solid seasons for the Nationals before being traded to the A's in 2017.
In his sublime 2018 season, strikeouts aside he was more dominant than Diaz, allowing only 46 hits in 80 1/3 innings, to go with 100 K's and only 21 walks, for a 0.843 WHIP. In addition, Treinen allowed only two home runs all season, as hitters couldn't lift his notorious sinker.
Last year, however, at age 31 he didn't get the same action on that two-seamer, and gave up 58 hits in 58 2/3 innings, and nine home runs while pitching to a 4.91 ERA.
There was some thought among scouts that the much-discussed 2019 baseball, with harder-to-grip seams, made it harder for Treinen to get the same hard sink on his signature pitch. He also had a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two weeks starting in late June.
"And then at some point I think it became a mental thing, like it does for a lot of relievers," an AL scout told me Monday night. "They lose a little confidence and that's so important because they're out there walking that tightrope every night.
"I didn't see as much of Diaz but I have to believe some of it was mental with him too. That's why the volatility of relievers we always talk about is a real thing. They're up and down, and sometimes there's a toll for being used a lot -- their stuff isn't as crisp. I'd take a chance on Treinen. He gets that sink back and even if he's not lights-out he could be an effective ground-ball guy."
The A's weren't willing to pay $8 million to find out, and theoretically Treinen would figure to get less than that on a one-year deal as he heads toward free agency next fall.
But if there are several teams interested, who knows? If the Yankees are in the running, this is one time the Mets should be at least willing to go dollar-for-dollar with them and see how it plays out.
At worst the Mets should wind up with either Betances or Treinen. If they somehow wound up with both they'd lead the world in bounce-back candidates, anyway, and increase their odds of hitting on at least a couple of them.