No it’s not Yoenis Cespedes, but is the Mets signing of Antonio Bastardo the smartest decision made by the Mets front office so far this offseason?
The New York Mets have had a rather quiet off season.
However the one player that seemingly every Met fan can’t stop talking about is Yoenis Cespedes.
Go to any Mets blog or Facebook group and talk to the fans. The Cespedes debate is bound to find its way into the conversation.
On Wednesday evening the Mets made another addition to their 2016 roster and it is the smartest move of the offseason so far.
And no, the Mets did not sign Cespedes. The player they did sign is left handed reliever Antonio Bastardo.
The deal is a two year pact worth six million a year for a total of $12M over the life of the deal.
Despite rumors that Bastardo was seeking a contract of at least three years, it appeared he settled for the higher annual value with a shorter overall contract term. According to Robert Murray of Baseball Essential the Pirates did offer Bastardo a contract as well, believed to be in the two year eight million range.
Antonio bastardo has an agreement with mets
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 21, 2016
Antonio Bastardo has agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the #Mets, according to a source.
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayBBE) January 21, 2016
But rather than re-sign with his former team, Bastardo accepted the higher annual value from the Mets.
While this trade is still relatively fresh news, the Mets fandom has met the news (no pun intended) with indifference.
Antonio Bastardo is a reliable reliever, but he’s not Yoenis Cespedes. For every mention of Bastardo there is still two to three mentions of Cespedes.
But that is besides the point of this article.
The Mets may not have signed Cespedes (and it’s not going to happen), but they did do something that may be even more critical for the team to be successful in 2016.
Last week I wrote an article on the state of the Mets bullpen.
In that article I speculate on whether or not the Mets bullpen is good enough for next season.
Ironically I mentioned how the Mets were unlikely to sign Bastardo given his desire to sign a multi-year deal, specifically three years. The Mets did not seem inclined to offer any multi-year contracts.
Clearly things have changed, and the two sides agreed upon a two year contract.
As for that article, the Mets bullpen has some good overall depth but lacks proven success outside of a few reliable arms such as closer Jeurys Familia.
In one fell swoop the Mets have solved that problem with the acquisition of Bastardo.
While there is still quite a bit of uncertainty in the Mets’ bullpen, Bastardo provides a veteran presence and reliable production.
Bastardo pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, but spent the first nine years of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.
After a few successful seasons in 2013 and 2014, Bastardo elevated his play with the Pirates in 2015. He finished the year with a 2.98 ERA and 3.33 FIP in 57.1 innings over 66 appearances.
Bastardo has struggled a bit with his command, walking over four batters per nine innings. But he did strikeout over 10 batters per nine innings last season.
The Mets already have two lefties in the bullpen in Sean Gilmartin and Jerry Blevins, with a possible third if Josh Edgin can return following a tommy john surgery. But Bastardo provides a more well-rounded option for the Mets.
Besides, you can never have too many useful lefties.
But perhaps one of the most important attributes of Bastardo are his splits. He gave up only a .139 average to left handed hitters last season and only allowed a .209 batting average against righties, showing that he is not just a lefty specialist.
However against lefties Bastardo was especially dominant, giving up only one run in 18.2 innings against left handed batters. He has demonstrated his ability to strike out both right and left handers consistently.
Perhaps even more important for the Mets bullpen is Bastardo’s performance in high leverage situations.
In 8.1 innings pitched in high leverage situations he allowed a batting average of only .074, allowing only two runs to score. Bastardo also increased his strikeout rate, which was accompanied by a decrease in his walk rate in those same high leverage situations.
Bastardo also gave up no home runs in high leverage situations in addition to the final two months of the season. A reliever who can perform well under pressure is really just what the Mets need, especially following the poor bullpen performances from last postseason
Given his strong performance against hitters from both sides of the plate in conjunction with his success in high leverage situations, Bastardo can be used in a setup role alongside Addison Reed and Jenrry Mejia.
Above all else Bastardo gives the Mets more late inning bullpen options, which is a benefit to any team. With one of the best starting pitching staffs in all of baseball, bolstering the bullpen will be a huge benefit for the Mets in 2016.
Despite an offense that may struggle to score runs consistently, a strong bullpen that supports a strong starting staff will be critical to the Mets success.
Mets fans may not be satisfied but the signing of Antonio Bastardo is a real positive for the team. The team’s chances of returning to postseason contention or even another World Series have greatly increased.
Bastardo may not be Yoenis Cespedes, but he may be the next best thing. And for the Mets and their fans, that should be more than good enough.