The Mets have been exploring the free-agent market for low-cost relievers since December, as they try to add to their bullpen, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters at the time.
Alderson said he would prefer to acquire a pitcher that can handle "high-leverage situations" amd who has experience closing games, even though the pitcher might not be considered a closer.
"The key is having someone who can handle a tight situation," Alderson explained.
If this is still the goal, the Mets have to eventually sign RHP Santiago Casilla or RHP Sergio Romo, both of whom have the best high-leverage results out of the remaining crop of free-agent relief pitchers.
According to MLB insiders, Romo, Greg Holland, Neftali Feliz, Joe Blanton, Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins -- and not Casilla -- are getting the most attention right now on the free-agent market.
In December, as many as seven teams had reportedly expressed interest in Romo and Casilla, who I assume were also contacted by the Mets. Nevertheless, six weeks later, they're both still available, though so is everyone else on the above list...
In 40 games for the Giants last season, Romo had just four saves, but also 14 holds, with a 3.80 ERA (3.63 FIP) and 33 strikeouts in 30 innings. Meanwhile, Casilla, 36, had a 3.57 ERA (3.94 FIP) and struck out 65 batters in 58 innings.
However, Casilla also struggled in September, allowing five runs in just 7 2/3 innings.
Casilla (46) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning during game two of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
According to my friend with the Giants, they blame Casilla's late-season results partially on their coaching staff, since he was asked to warm up and throw a lot during late-summer games that he never entered. It produced a workload he had not been used to and may have resulted in fatigue.
"It seemed like he was up and down a hundred times a night in August," I was told.
The Giants fought tooth and nail with the Mets and Cardinals for two Wild Card spots, eventually defeating the Mets in the one-game playoff.
Despite his late-season struggles, I like that Casilla has been consistent and healthy, throwing just 58 innings during each of the last three seasons -- all of which were with the Giants. Also, I like that he's striking out more guys as he gets older, while not increasing his walks.
The big concern is his age and that he's been giving up more home runs. However, his BABIP is up too, which -- when combined with the strikeout rates -- might mean he's tailing more over the plate than in the past. If this is true, it can be corrected.
Romo would be super effective pitching after New York's power-throwing starting rotation. His sinker-slider combination would also be a nice addition when entering with runners on base.
He or Casilla and Addison Reed could certainly fill in at closer when Jeurys Familia is expected to be out on suspension. Then, when Familia returns (probably in late May, early June), Romo or Casilla and Reed can transition to being one helluva two-headed set-up man.
I realize Sandy Alderson would prefer to trade for this type pitcher, likely in a deal for Jay Bruce, while giving a guaranteed deal to a left-handed reliever and not a righty -- after which he'll likely add to the mix with anyone willing to take a minor-league deal. But, if experienced, battle-tested, high-leverage guys are what he wants, Romo and Casilla should be on his short list, despite them likely warranting some guaranteed money.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) has been the lead writer of MetsBlog.com since 2003, as well as Executive Editor and Director of Digital Content for SNY.TV and host of the MetsBlog Q&ACast, pres. by Citi.