If the New York Mets want to build a winner, it’s time to put all the chips in the middle of the table – and stack them around the diamond.
Trendy as it might be, the New York Mets need to hop on the relief pitcher bandwagon that is circulating baseball and picking up contenders at its every stop.
With a closer cornucopia lying at the center of the 2016-2017 offseason, the Mets should strike in a full-force plunge toward a championship objective. A step in that process, albeit perhaps a final step, is assembling a lights-out bullpen.
Before even analyzing the market, it’s conceptually sound for the Mets to acquire a closer. Jeurys Familia will almost certainly face suspension for his domestic violence charge, which has since been dropped, and his absence during a period that could last more than a month has a potential to haunt the Mets; after all, it was the padding from April that kept the team above water before its late-season run in 2015.
Even if Familia’s impending suspension wasn’t a factor, and – mind you – it most certainly is, a move for a shutdown late-inning arm would still be justified. In analyzing the models of recent winners, it is clear that the ‘pen monster is an undoubted force in baseball, and, if the Mets want to compete with the big boys, fortifying the bullpen is a step that must be taken.
Now, there is one, minor logistical concern that must be addressed before the Mets go get a closer – and go spend a fortune. That is, a big bat – whether it be Yoenis Cespedes, to whom the Mets are reportedly willing to commit $100 million, or a trade candidate. After that deal is set and done, the Mets should take an opportunistic stance on the relief pitcher market, seeking to find the best bargain. Here, the Mets will join the closer-less Washington Nationals, a certain incentive to leg up on the division rivals.
Mark Melancon, 32, is the most likely reliever to slip through the cracks, as Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman are the bigger prizes. Still, figure that Melancon will earn north of $50 million, as the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, and Nationals will all be in the closer bidding.
In his eight big league seasons, Melancon has been named to three National League All-Star teams. He’s pitched to a stellar 2.60 career ERA and converted 47 and 51 saves the last two seasons, respectively. In 29.2 innings pitched in Washington, Melancon surrendered just six earned runs and worked a 0.81 WHIP. Since 2013, Melancon has pitched more than 70 innings each season, marking impressive consistency and durability, while also signaling the upswing nature of Melancon’s trajectory.
If the Mets can pluck Melancon from the market, much to the surprise of the rest of the sport, one of their National League competitors would almost certainly lose out, and the culprit could be Washington. Whatever the result, a Melancon, Familia, and Addison Reed trio would join the ranks of baseball’s top back-end reliever groups – while certainly qualifying as the most dangerous right-handed triple-headed threat.
Put that group together, and reunite with left-hander Jerry Blevins, and quite suddenly the New York Mets have assembled a formidable bullpen, as opposed to a unit that now stands on thin ice with Familia’s uncertainty. In the Melancon acquisition, to boot, the Mets shore up future concerns surrounding both Familia – whose postseason closing woes are legitimate cause for concern – and Reed, who will hit free agency after this season.
All told, a move for Mark Melancon is not the under-the-radar, shock-worthy move it may appear to be. It is, more accurately, the most sensible move for the New York Mets, supporting a synergy of efforts and acquisitions to bring championship glory back to Queens.