Who could the New York Mets pick up off the waiver wire to improve as they make a push for the MLB playoffs?
Unlike in years past, there will no longer be any major pieces moved in August. This is the first year of the one true trade deadline, and that hurts surging teams like the New York Mets.
On July 31, the Mets were still under .500, and despite getting hot, their odds of making the playoffs were still low. Now, the Mets are in the thick of the race. But with Robinson Cano possibly down for the year, they’re desperate for offensive assistance.
The bullpen is also in need of some aid. Edwin Diaz has been shaky at best this year. Jeurys Familia has been a downright disaster and the pitchers they’ve called up from the minors have all struggled mightily. Outside of Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Justin Wilson, the Mets lack a reliable arm. That’s where the waiver wire could come in to help. Three players, in particular, stand out as potentially impactful additions for a Mets team that needs reinforcements.
Joe Panik offers more upside than Luis Guillorme and Adeiny Hechavarria. Even if that wasn’t the case though, he would still be a better option. There are two reasons as to why it happens to be the case, however. They are his playoff experience and his understanding of baseball fundamentals.
Hechavarria has all of four postseason plate appearances. Guillorme has never been there. Panik, on the other hand, helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in 2014. He was also a part of the team that beat the Mets in 2016 before losing to the future WS champion-Chicago Cubs. That playoff experience and the time spent playing in multiple playoff races down the stretch is invaluable to a team as young as the Mets. He adds a lot of the veteran presence they lost with Cano.
Even though Panik has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this year, according to Fangraphs, that doesn’t mean he’s been awful in every way. This is one time where advanced stats like WAR and WRc+ miss an important part of the game when comparing struggling players: that is making productive outs.
Panik almost always puts the ball in play, he has just a 9.8% strikeout rate and a 9.3% walk rate, which means he’s putting the ball in play 80.9% of the time. He also doesn’t just pound the ball into the ground, he has a 42.2% ground-ball rate, but a 23.1% line-drive rate and a 34.7% fly-ball rate. That shows that he can still put the ball where it needs to be depending on the situation.
The Giants have won so many games despite poor numbers because they play fundamentally-sound baseball. Move the runner over, hit a sacrifice fly, and run the bases well. Those are all things that Panik does well; things that both Guillorme and Hechavarria have failed to do. Not to mention, Panik grew up in New York and played his college ball at St. John’s.
The Giants designated Panik for assignment on Aug. 6.
Zack Godley’s raw numbers are skewed this year. He’s been awful as a starting pitcher. His numbers when starting games are just abysmal. However, that isn’t the case when you look at his numbers as a reliever. The Diamondbacks have jerked Godley around this year, not being sure which role would help the team best. Godley had made nine starts and 18 relief appearances before he was designated for assignment on Aug. 5.
In those 18 relief appearances, Godley’s numbers are decent. He’s allowed a slash line of .218/.297/.414, 3.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 1.14 WHIP, 73.1% LOB, only 36.8% hard contact rate, 17.9% soft contact rate. It’s certainly not amazing, but that’s decent. Those are also numbers you have to take in context.
Having been shifted in and out of the bullpen Godley hasn’t been able to get into a groove when working as a reliever. With the Mets, Godley would be a full-time relief pitcher, and the hope would be that given the well-defined role, Godley would settle in and excel. He would also be able to go multiple innings if needed, something only Lugo and Gsellman can do in the Mets current bullpen.
His numbers this year aren’t the only reason to look at him though. He was a breakout star just two years ago for the Diamondbacks. He was a starting pitcher with a sparkling 3.37 ERA, 9.58 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9. The upside he offers is phenomenal. Godley would also only cost a measly $300,000 over the rest of the season and would have three more years of team control after this one.
That being said, he’s had two big issues this year. The first is that his fastball velocity is down 4.5 mph compared to his average. He still gets the sink and ridiculous spin rate on his pitch though. It’s weird because none of his other pitches have lost significant velocity. In fact, his slider and curveball have seen increased velocity. His slider is four mph faster than his fastball according to Fangraphs. That likely means it’s a mechanical issue that can be fixed.
The other issue is that his strikeout rate is way down. A permanent move to the bullpen and a fresh set of eyes could very well fix Godley and give the Mets another reliable arm in a shaky bullpen.
Many Mets fans will remember Greg Holland as a member of the 2015 Royals bullpen. The one that shut down the Mets and helped the Royals to their first World Series victory since 1985. Since then, Holland has pitched in the National League.
In 2017 he was an All-Star for the Colorado Rockies. In 2018 he struggled mightily with the St. Louis Cardinals before pitching very well for the Nationals down the stretch. This year, Holland had been very up and down while a member of the Diamondbacks. There are games Holland looked like the three-time All-Star he is, and other times he’s looked like the struggling pitcher that the Cardinals cut last year. That inconsistency led to the Diamondbacks designating Holland for assignment on Aug. 7.
Holland has two issues that have been holding him back this year. The first is that his velocity is down. Last year, Holland average 92.9 mph on his fastball and 86.3 mph on his slider, those are both down this year as he’s averaged 91.7 mph on his fastball and 84.5 mph on his slider.
Holland, 33, is getting older, and learning to pitch with diminished velocity is something that older pitchers have to do. One way that Holland has tried to compensate is by trying to refine his control and throw by throwing more balls out of the strike zone. Holland has always been a strikeout pitcher and he’s not ready to give that up.
That leads to the second issue that Holland has had this year: his control. Holland has allowed 6.06 BB/9 this year, and 6.22 BB/9 last year. That’s way too high, but he combines it with a 10.35 K/9 this year and a 9.13 K/9 last year. Holland tries his best to strike batters out for better or worse.
This year though, Holland has also begun to miss in the middle of the plate. His HR/9 is up to 1.26 from .31 last year, that 1.26 HR/9 is still decent but is well above his career average. Combine that with his incredibly high walk rate and you see the issue.
The solution for the Mets is simple, get Holland to throw strikes and you have a good reliever. That’s easier said than done though, and the Mets have had mixed results with that this year. Justin Wilson came to the Mets with a walk rate well over five but has dropped that to just over four this year. Wilson has been one of the Mets best relievers this year due to the decreased walk rate.
However, Familia has been a nightmare due to his walk rate. After a walk rate of just 3.5 last year, Familia’s walk rate is an unbelievable 7.5 this year. Even if the Mets don’t figure out how to get Holland’s walk rate down, he would still be a better option than the likes of Chris Mazza making him a worthwhile addition. Holland offers all-star upside with little to lose for the Mets bullpen.