Reese Kaplan -- Former Weakness Now a Strength


This is part ten of an eleven part series looking at how the roster might shape up for the 2017 season after the dramatic end to the current playoff run relying on a great many people who were never in the plans when the year began.  Today we'll take a look at the relief pitchers who have been far more good than bad, but nonetheless have had critical input on the teams successes and failures throughout 2016.  

Given the fragile state of the Mets pitching rotation it has become imperative they back it up with a strong bullpen, doubly important given the manager’s propensity to burn through nearly every arm in the pen day in and day out.  There are times when the pen has been very stingy when it comes to allowing inherited baserunners to score, but other times when it appears the fireman are in fact the ones setting things ablaze.  
Jeurys Familia
After being pressed into emergency closing duties when Jenrry Mejia decided to experiment with better living through chemistry, Familia has been a revelation for the Mets.  Last season he finished with pretty remarkable numbers – a 2-2 record, 43 saves, a sparking 1.85 ERA – he is doing even better this year.  With two weeks to go in the season he’s at 3-3, 2.50 ERA and 48 saves already.  In both years he has managed to fan nearly 10 per 9 innings pitched.  He’s earned every penny of his $4.1 million salary.  He’s entering the first of two arbitration years before becoming eligible for free agency in 2019.  He’s very much a keeper.
Addison Reed
As good as Famiila has been this year as a closer, Reed has been even more dominant in his customary setup role as the 8th inning guy.  How good?  Well, through mid September he has a 4-2 record with a tiny 1.76 ERA allowing under one baserunner per inning pitched.  He's doing it while ironically earning more money than Familia with a $5.3 million salary and is arbitration eligible this year.  Despite the team's frugal ways in the past, I can't see them letting Reed walk away as he can also serve as an emergency closer should Familia need a break or if he joins the others crowding the DL.
Jerry Blevins
The 2015 hard luck story with the twice broken arm hasn't let it slow him down at all.  He picked up the same high quality of pitching he delivered in his abbreviated stint last year and thus far has delivered 38 innings of high quality relief, mostly in the LOOGY role but in September notching a few saves to help preserve Familia's arm.  He's earning a $4 million salary and is a pending free agent just as he was at the close of the 2015 season.  Since it doesn't seem as if the team has much confidence in Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker is still a work in progress, they will have to think long and hard about bringing him back as well.
Fernando Salas
Given the fact that the Los Angeles Angels let Salas go for very little in return, you'd have to wonder what his true value really is.  He's earning a minuscule $2.3 million for a guy who's been in the league for 7 years and who has at times saved games for the Cardinals and the Halos.  In his September audition with the Mets he's pitching to a 1.04 ERA and certainly looks like a good arm to consider having around, particularly if anyone else chooses to depart via free agency.  He's eligible as well, so it may be difficult to secure his services.
Hansel Robles
It's been an up and down year for Robles.  He's delivered key strikeouts when needed but also sacrificed long balls at the worst times.  Overall he's 6-4 with a respectable 3.75 ERA but the big red flag is the difference in baserunners.  Last year he held opponents to about 1 per IP, but this year he's offering up 40% more baserunners.  He still earns close to major league minimum so he may be penciled into the future plans on that basis alone.  
Logan Verrett
Please, no more chances.  He’s shown he’s a AAAA pitcher at best.  There are other options who offer more ability or better potential.  Thanks, Logan.  Buh-bye!
Sean Gilmartin
I don’t know if he kicked Terry Collins’ dog or what, but after delivering an entire year of 2.67 ERA out of the bullpen as a Rule V selection in 2015, he spent the majority of the year in pitching hell AKA Las Vegas.  He did not do well.  Since his return, he’s pretty much glued to the bench as the manager has no faith in him despite what he did last year.  I fully expect he’s on the baseball equivalent of the taxi squad if he’s still with the organization at all.  
Josh Edgin
Another inexplicable banishment to the close-to-last-option in the pen, Edgin deserves better.  His work before his arm trouble was amazing with a sub 1.37 ERA and he followed that up with strong numbers similar numbers in Las Vegas.  He fanned over 10 per 9 IP but had some control issues since rehabbing his way back and he’s not gotten much opportunity.  He’s earning $625K this year and is arbitration eligible for the first time, so an increase in the cards despite his light load.  I think he’s going to be in the mix but he’s not the first left handed option unless JErry Blevins walks.  
Josh Smoker
Much like lefty Jack Leathersich before him, Smoker is an all-or-nothing type of pitcher who posts crazy strikeout totals but is occasionally too hittable.  Right now he’s averaging 15.1 Ks per 9 IP!  Unlike Leathersich, he’s actually gotten the opportunity to pitch and he’s done well enough to warrant a further look.    He earns minimum, so he could usurp that role heretofore given to Hansel Robles as the guy to summon when a strikeout is needed.
Erik Goeddel
Another middle-of-the-pack guy, Goeddel has fanned better than 1 per IP, but his ERA is over 4.00 so his future is uncertain.  He makes little money and they could do far worse (Logan Verrett, for example), but his job is certainly not guaranteed.
Jim Henderson
Given the huge number of injuries the team has faced in 2016, I would expect they would lean heavily towards health when making roster decisions next year.  Henderson showed flashes of what he once was but health was always precarious and the overall numbers are intriguing.  He’s also fanning over 10 per 9 innings while allowing a high number of baserunners.  They allowed veteran guys like Dana Eveland and Buddy Carlyle hang around hoping for health.  This time I don’t think they will.  
Seth Lugo, Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman
Their futures are in starting rotations, not the pen.  Therefore I think the Mets will miscast at least one as a reliever instead of keeping him ready in AAA in the starting rotation.  
Paul Sewald
Here’s another pitcher who’s done nothing but succeed at every level he’s played but when the rosters expanded he didn’t get the chance to come to New York to show if he could rise to the challenge once again.  For his ENTIRE minor league career he’s 16-8 with a 2.20 ERA with over 10 Ks per 9 innings and a respectable WHIP of just a hair over 1 baserunner per IP.  He’s a little old for a rookie (turning 27 next year) but on paper he certainly seems to be worth a look.
My Prediction
Familia and Reed will be back.  They will make a strong run at Salas.  They will let Blevins leave with Smoker and Edgin working towards the LOOGY role he once held.  Sewald will get a shot as a long man in the pen but the club might actually deal away some of its relievers (Gilmartin, Goeddel, Robles?) to strengthen other positions.  


Thomas Brennan said...

Whitey's incredible 1985 pen kept the Mets out of the playoffs that year - they were something like 80-0 in games they led after 7 innings (compare even to Familia) until an awful call on what would have been the last play of the World Series extended KC's life, and they won that game and the next to send the Cards home. I hated the Cards and enjoyed their bad luck.

I like Smoker, and think he will show he belongs as a regular in 2017. But he is a soft tosser at 97, so I'd like to sign a hard thrower like Aroldis Chapman too.

Paul Sewald? Love to see him, but who knows? His least favorite holiday is the Passover.

Reese Kaplan said...

Since this article was written prior to my trip abroad, I have changed my mind and think that Addison Reed will be dangled as trade bait. I can't see them going with a $10 million set up guy particularly if they're trying to figure out how to pay Cespedes and/or Walker. Fernando Salas has had closing experience like Reed, but should cost about 25% of what the incumbent 8th inning guy will command. Don't get me wrong. I'd LIKE Reed back. I just don't see it happening. Some other club may want him as a closer.

Thomas Brennan said...



Mack's Mets © 2012