Earlier this week, we heard the Mets make a minor move, signing 30-year-old reliever Greg Burke to a minor league contract, with an invite to Big League Spring Training. Although this is not the kind of move fans will want to continue seeing this winter, Alderson maintains the fact that despite getting money from deferring part of the $21 million Jason Bay is still owed, the organization still can’t spend on free agents. So, when it comes to rebuilding the bullpen, expect to see New York hand out more of these deals, allowing an open competition for spots as relievers. Much like I did yesterday with Tyler Flowers, I want to help answer the question, who the heck is Greg Burke?
A product of northern New Jersey, Burke played for Duke University and was signed by the San Diego Padres back in 2006 as an amateur free agent. When he first began his professional career in the Padre organization, he was starting a bunch, and didn’t make the full-time switch to the bullpen until 2008; despite having a 2-7 record, he compiled a 2.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 23 saves, and 92 strikeouts in 84.1 innings pitched. After appearing in only 13 games in 2009 due to a promotion to the Big Leagues, he endured back-to-back trying seasons, appearing in at least 50 games in each, but posting an ERA north of 5.50 both times.
That led the Padres to let him go following 2011, and the Orioles scooped him up and put him back in Double-A at the beginning of 2012; after dominating the league halfway through the year, he was promoted to Triple-A and did the same thing. Altogether, Burke appeared in 44 games (64.2 IP), and put together a 3-1 record, 1.53 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 17 saves, and 50 strikeouts.
As for that Big League time he spent with the Padres in 2009, he appeared in 48 games and threw 45.2 innings, compiling a 3-3 record, 4.14 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts. He doesn’t have vast experience at the highest level (obviously), but he’s been a proven commodity throughout his minor league career, and has certainly put those two consecutive tough seasons behind him.
When it comes to putting together a bullpen, the performances of relievers can vary from year-to-year, depending on which the wind blows. Look at the Mets bullpen in 2006; you had the big name pitchers like Billy Wagner and Duaner Sanchez, but there were also some guys we haven’t heard much from since that NL East Championship season, like Darren Oliver (who has had a prosperous career since), Chad Bradford, Aaron Heilman, and Dave Williams. Putting together a bunch of productive relievers can be a crap shoot.
So, I think this is good signing, especially because it’s a low risk, high reward scenario. He’s proven himself in the minor leagues, and deserves a shot to fight for his spot in a Big League bullpen. If he comes into camp this spring and pitches well, he gets the reward of going north with the team to Flushing for Opening Day at Citi Field. If he doesn’t, there isn’t a significant monetary investment in him, and he’ll likely report to Las Vegas in Triple-A instead.
So there you have it folks, Greg Burke. We’ll see what he brings to the table in a few months.