While the Mets continue to ponder whether or not they’ll upgrade shortstop before the 2014 season begins, there’s a growing sentiment that the bullpen situation may be worse than the shortstop one.
Is the concern about the bullpen based in reality, or is it simply residual worrying from a fanbase that’s still wary despite the fact that the Mets have finally jumped back into the free agent market with both feet and appear headed in the right direction?
At present, it appears that the Mets have nine relievers for seven spots.
If the season started today, the bullpen would likely consist of Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, Carlos Torres, and one of Gonzalez Germen, Joel Carreno, or Jeff Walters. Every one of those pitchers is on the 40-man roster except Carreno, who the Mets signed to a minor league deal in November.
As Rising Apple’s Dan Haefeli pointed out earlier today on Twitter, Parnell, Black, Familia, Edgin, Rice, and Germen combined to put up a 3.31 FIP (fielding independent pitching) in 2013. Haefeli noted that there are depth concerns, but the pitchers the Mets have in place are certainly capable.
In addition to the six pitchers above, the Mets have Walters, who was stellar as the closer for Double-A Binghamton last season, Torres, who will likely be used in a swingman capacity, and Carreno, who many observers view as someone who can be a solid piece. The 27 year old Carreno, who had a cup of coffee in the majors with Toronto in 2012, struck out 10.53 per 9 last year while with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate.
Of the nine relievers who are competing for the seven spots in the Mets’ pen, seven are between 24 and 29 years old. The elder statesmen are lefty specialist Rice (32 years old), and Torres (31 years old).
Among those relievers are three who can touch close to 100 MPH on the radar gun (Parnell, Black, and Familia), two capable lefties (Edgin and Rice), one solid piece who can pitch middle or late innings or spot start (Torres), and three other guys who are lacking in experience but have live arms (Germen, Carreno, and Walters).
Is it risky to roll with a bullpen like the one the Mets may roll with? Yes. At the same time, the group the Mets have assembled has the potential to be very good.
As anyone who follows baseball knows, bullpen arms (with very few exceptions) are extremely volatile year to year. Signing relievers who are viewed as established contributors guarantees nothing. For recent examples, take a look at Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Brandon Lyon.
The relievers the Mets have assembled aren’t a sure thing, but neither is any other collective bullpen. For a team like the Mets, whose strength is its starting pitching, I’ll gladly take the chance that the relievers currently on board can form a solid pen – especially when the alternative is throwing millions at “established” relievers whose presence would guarantee nothing except for long leashes in the event that they struggle.