If the New York Mets want to sustain their success from last season, their bullpen will need to step up and provide stability.
For a team who just got all the way to the World Series in 2015, the New York Mets have had no shortage of critics this offseason.
Despite having one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, the Mets have question marks all across the diamond.
Here are a couple of these unfortunate questions as it relates to the defending NL Pennant winners:
- Is there enough offensive support?
- Can the defense play well enough?
Perhaps the biggest question of all: Is the Mets bullpen is good enough to finish games?
So far this offseason the Mets have been relatively quiet in terms of upgrading their team. Despite the departures of Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have been quiet in free agency. To replace Murphy, who signed with the division rival Nationals, the Mets traded away some excess pitching in Jon Niese to Pittsburgh for second baseman Neil Walker. The team also added Asdrubal Cabrera via free agency, who should get some significant playing time at shortstop. Finally, the team added Alejandro De Aza in free agency to serve as a fourth outfielder behind the likely combo of Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson.
While the moves may be uninspiring to some, the Mets appear to be pretty much done making upgrades around the diamond.
With the rotation obviously set, with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and either Zack Wheeler or Bartolo Colon, the focus for the Mets offseason may come down to the bullpen.
Last season the Mets enjoyed being equipped with one of the better bullpens in baseball.
The team ranked 11th in team ERA (3.48), 11th in FIP (3.60), and 8th in WHIP (1.23). So by these relatively arbitrary measures, the Mets were one of the top bullpens in baseball during the regular season.
However, during the playoffs the Mets bullpen had its problems.
As Mets fans remember, closer Jeurys Familia blew three saves in the World Series. Obviously, defense and poor decision making played a role in a few of those saves, but the bullpen still had problems throughout the playoffs.
Despite those struggles, the Mets have yet to make any additions to their bullpen, only re-signing lefty Jerry Blevins to a one year contract last month.
According to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the team is content to wait out the bullpen market. Beyond that, the Mets front office does not seem willing to go beyond a one year contract for any of the remaining arms on the relief market, including Tyler Clippard and Antonio Bastardo.
Both players appear to be looking for multi-year contracts, with Bastardo asking for three years, making the fit appear unlikely with the Mets despite the benefits of having an arm like that in the bullpen.
As it currently stands, the only sure things in the bullpen for next year are closer Jeurys Familia, recently re-signed Jerry Blevins, and last year’s trade acquisition Addison Reed.
However, the common theme for most of those arms is that they are unproven.
It would be asking a lot to put the bulk of the Mets bullpen work in the hands of so many unproven players. Adding a veteran arm like Clippard or Bastardo could provide more depth, veteran leadership, and take some pressure off younger, less proven arms.
Based on all the signs the Mets front office has shown, it appears unlikely that the team will be serious players on Bastardo or Clippard, or really any of the remaining free agent bullpen arms.
However, this appears to be an ill-advised decision.
The Mets bullpen could be good enough as it stands, despite the numerous question marks surrounding the team.
However, They will need to be more if they are to live up to that expectation.