September 11, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher J.P. Howell (39) pitches in the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Rays 9 - 2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Which Southpaw Relievers Will the Mets Target?

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As the Mets continue to formulate their off-season plan of action for 2013, one of the things on Sandy Alderson’s to-do list is to overhaul the bullpen again, one that was among the worst in baseball last season. Josh Edgin and Robert Carson did a great job in the second half of the season, showing that there are internal options for New York to use as left-handed relievers. However, word on the street is that the front office will be searching for a veteran southpaw to put in the bullpen. So, who could be on the Mets’ radar for this position?

Randy Choate (0-0, 3.03 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 80 appearances, 38.2 IP, 38 Ks)

Choate, who was a part of the trade that sent Hanley Ramirezto the Los Angeles Dodgers, is your prototypical left-handed specialist. Out of his 38.2 innings pitched in 2012, he faced lefty hitters 29.2 of those innings, and held the opposition to .158 average, compiling a 2.12 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Meanwhile, in the 9 innings he faced righties, they put up a .325 average while he sported a 6.00 ERA and 2.44 WHIP. Entering his age 37 season, he’s seen time with five different teams, and is finishing up a two-year/$2.5 million deal. He could be looking for a two-year deal for some security, but he could be worth a look for Alderson to offer a one-year contract, or to offer a one-year deal with a team option for 2014.

J.P. Howell (1-0, 3.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 55 appearances, 50.1 IP, 42 Ks)

A much younger option in the free agent market than Choate, J.P. Howell will be turning 30 next April and is entering free agency for the first time after finishing up a one-year/$1.35 million deal with the Rays in his last year of arbitration. Coming off a terrible year in 2011, where he compiled a 6.16 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, he made a comeback just in time for his contract yearc. Unlike Choate, Howell has more experience in finishing games (65 over 7 years), more playing time against right handed hitters (21 IP in ’12), and has been in the postseason with the Rays more often (’08 and’11). Howell could work in the Mets bullpen because he can be a specialist, but could also throw an entire inning. However, going into free agency for the first time in his career, he may be looking for a two- or three-year deal to have some job security.

Mike Gonzalez (0-0, 3.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 47 appearances, 35.2 IP, 39 Ks)

Another veteran in the free agent market, Gonzalez brings recent postseason experience to the table, as he went to the World Series with Texas in 2011 and helped the Nationals win the NL East title this past season. Like Howell, Gonzalez has had a lot of experience against both lefties in righties in 2012, but has been more successful against left-handed hitters (.197 Op BA, 2.45 ERA in 18.1 IP). The biggest issue with going after this reliever, who is going into his age-35 season, is that Scott Boras is his agent. So, he may try to inflate his value more than it should be. However, this could be a solid option for the Mets, as Gonzalez has bounced around a few times during his MLB career.

Jeremy Affeldt (1-2, 2.70 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 67 appearances, 63.1 IP, 57 Ks)

A former starter turned reliever, Jeremy Affeldt has found his home in the bullpen, and is finishing a three-year/$14 million deal he signed with the San Francisco Giants, while having his most successful season yet. He’s used his background as a starter to pitch well in when he’s ahead in the count (2.25 ERA) and behind in the count (2.63 ERA). It seems as if it would be tough to snatch Affeldt away from the Bay area, where he has made his home with the Giants. He’s performed well during the life of his contract and since he’s comfortable there, I wouldn’t be surprised if he asked his agent to do all he could to stay in San Fran. However, he can do a little bit of everything out of the ‘pen, so we can dream right?

Who do you think the Mets will target to fill their need as a left-handed reliever?

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Tags: 2012 MLB Offseason J.P. Howell Jeremy Affeldt Mike Gonzalez New York Mets Randy Choate

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