Similar to last season, it will once again be in the Mets best interest to pawn off valuable parts for prospects come mid-year. But unlike 2011, the Mets don’t really have high-caliber assets like Carlos Beltran (or Jose Reyes, for that matter) to dangle to teams. Given David Wright‘s play so far, and his general leadership abilities, it seems as though his tenure with the Mets will be more long-lived than Reyes’. So who will be on the go? The answer could be relievers.
General Manager Sandy Alderson used some of the “Jose Reyes” money towards inking and trading for Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez, so technically, the Mets have an “abundance” in the bullpen market. Francisco has been handling the ninth inning duties so far, but both all three could become late-inning attractions for prospective playoff teams during the deadline.
Even though Francisco has struggled recently (23.14 ERA, 3.85 WHIP, 0.33 K/BB in 2.3 IP), his first four outings also shows what he’s capable of (0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 15.75 K/9 in 4 IP). On the other hand, Rauch hasn’t struggled a bit. The veteran right-hander has yet to yield a run in 8.3 innings, and also boasts a 0.48 WHIP, and 4.00 K/BB. Lastly, there’s Ramon Ramirez, who to-date, has not pitched well (5.40 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 1.25 K/BB in 8.3 IP). However, let’s not forget what he did in 2011, posting an impressive 2.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 2.54 K/BB in 68.6 innings for the San Francisco Giants. If Ramirez finds his 2011 self, team’s will be lining up outside Citi Field’s rotunda for his services.
But trading three relievers–and three “top” relievers at that–creates a pretty big hole in anyone’s bullpen. So, if the Mets do trade Francisco, Rauch, and Ramirez, who will fill the void? Luckily, the Mets have some relief depth in the Minors. Josh Edgin, Jack Egbert, and Jeremy Hefner might get the call, and provide middle-to-late inning help. Fans should already be familiar with Edgin, as the lefty wowed fans and the front office with an superb Spring Training. Luckily, his Spring stats weren’t an aberration–he’s posted a combined 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 3.00 K/BB in 9.3 innings so far between Double-A and Triple-A. It’s also important to note that Edgin notched 27 Saves in 2011–so perhaps if Francisco gets dealt, the 25 year-old southpaw could potentially close for the second-half Mets.
Next up is Jack Egbert. After toiling in the Minors for seven seasons as a starter, mostly for the Chicago White Sox, Egbert decided to scrap starting for relieving. The result? A 2.38 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 2.67 K/BB in 11.3 innings. While the right-hander’s strikeout totals won’t wow you (6.4 K/9 in 2012), he has shown good control (2.4 BB/9) and hit-stinginess (7.1 Hits/9). With his experience as a starting pitcher, Egbert is probably a better fit for the back of the bullpen as opposed to the 7th inning–but his potential success as a cheap reliever should not be discounted.
Lastly, there’s Jeremy Hefner. Hefner has actually already seen some MLB action in 2012, pitching three scoreless innings on April 23–but got sent down after the game to make room for Jordany Valdespin. His quick call-up was warranted, however, as he pitched to the tune of 1.96 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 2.25 K/BB over 18.3 innings at Triple-A. Similar to Egbert, Hefner has shown great control (2.0 BB/9 in 2012), but lacks the strikeout numbers one might ideally like out of a middle-reliever (4.4 K/9 in 2012). Still, in terms of internal replacements, Hefner is no slouch.
Given that trading relievers was probably Alderson’s strategy all along, fans should brace themselves for a lot of new faces coming out of the bullpen come mid-season. But with potential ace-reliever Josh Edgin, as well as Jack Egbert and Jeremy Hefner, all is not lost.