With their third win in-a-row last night against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets became tied in first place with the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals atop the National League East. At eight games over .500, the Mets are officially a “good” team. And what do most “good” teams do to become better? Make some trades. It’s unlikely the Mets will look to make a big splash at the deadline, as that would involve dangling prized prospects like Matt Harvey and/or Zack Wheeler, but with a few minor moves, here and there, the Mets could truly extend their miracle season.
Strangely, one of the most heated arguments Mets fans will have among themselves revolves around who should (or should have been) the back-up catcher. Sure, Mike Nickeas has fantastic hair–and is solid defensively–but his .148/.235/.230 line is putrid. And seeing as how Nickeas was forced to start in place of the concussed Josh Thole, it would be prudent to bring in a more reliable source of lumber during a potential playoff run. Ryan Doumit, currently of the Minnesota Twins, fits the bill.
Doumit, the long-time starting catcher of the Pittsburgh Pirates, has embraced a part-time role this season for the Twins. The 31 year-old has posted a good .265/.342/.426 line with 5 HR, 26 RBI, and 16 R in 158 PA’s. Even though he has never been renown for his defensive abilities, he has tossed out 26.6% of runners and only has 1 pass ball in 155 innings this season. In addition to his catching experience, Doumit has also seen time at first base and right field, making him even more of an ideal bench candidate for a ball club like the Mets. Considering the Twins have (former Met) Drew Butera as a good back-up option, Doumit’s presence on the cellar-dweller Twins won’t be missed–and his impending free agency justifies the salary dump ($3 million).
Many people were not in favor of bringing back Mike Pelfrey and his arbitrated $5.6875 million salary. Seemingly, the only redeeming factors about Big Pelf was his ability to stay healthy, eat innings, and lick his palm after every pitch. However, upon his surprising April arm injury which instantly knocked him out-for-the-season, the Mets found themselves with a massive void in the back of their rotation. To-date, there has been a more-or-less ineffective revolving door of Chris Schwinden (now of the Toronto Blue Jays), Miguel Batista, and most recently, Jeremy Hefner. Heck, the Mets are even giving Chris Young–who is fresh off rehab–a chance at the fifth slot. Assuming some combination of Hefner and/or Young doesn’t pan out, the Mets will need a steady source of innings from someone in that spot; and if they don’t sign recently released Jeff Francis, it’s possible Bartolo Colon could be a nice addition.
Colon’s march back to the Majors has been an interesting journey, as the portly right-hander only hurled 257 innings from 2006 to 2009, and even sat out the entire 2010 season–all due to a smorgasbord of arm injuries. But after taking part in a new surgical procedure (receiving transplants of stem cells to the damaged tissue areas), Colon went from semi-retired to a strong comeback player-of-the-year candidate (he unfairly got edged out by Jacoby Ellsbury). In fact, during the first half of 2011, Colon’s name was even dropped into the Cy Young Award race after pitching to the tune of a 3.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 3.59 K/BB for the New York Yankees. If not for his comparatively mediocre 4.96 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 3.11 K/BB in the second half, it’s possible the righty would have received more than the one-year, $2 million offer he signed with the Oakland Athletics.
So far in 2012, Colon has been a mishmash of his two halves from 2011, posting a 4.34 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 3.66 K/BB in 74.6 IP. While he certainly hasn’t been dominant (from 7.39 K/9 in 2011 to 5.30 K/9 this season), Colon is showcasing his best career control (1.45 BB/9), a solid groundball rate (43.6%), and has very consistent peripherals to boot (.304 BABIP and 4.24 xFIP). For those Mets fan hoping to acquire a stud starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon will not be your guy. But as a fifth starter, Colon will give the Mets plenty of opportunities to win, and even provide the bullpen with some relief (he’s averaging 6.22 IP/Start).
One of the Mets biggest weak points in 2011 was their bullpen. As a result, going into this past off-season, it was a priority to restructure the relief situation. Despite the addition of Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez, and Jon Rauch, the ‘pen still remains as a red flag. Sure, Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak have stepped up tremendously, but Manny Acosta and D.J. Carrasco–who are now both off the team–truly got lit up by the league (a 11.86 ERA and 7.36 ERA, respectively). On the whole, the Mets bullpen collectively owns a dismal (but improving) 5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 2.31 K/BB. The addition of one more veteran right-handed reliever would go a long way to make sure those quality starts turn into wins. Insert Brandon Lyon into the equation.
The Astros signed Lyon to a three-year, $15 million deal back in 2010, fresh off a 2.86 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 1.84 K/BB season for the Detroit Tigers. Signed initially as a setup man, the Astros eventually handed the closer gig to him after the volatile Matt Lindstrom continued to fold under pressure. Lyon ended up with 20 Saves (and only two blown), as well as a solid 3.12 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 1.74 K/BB in 78 IP. However, 2011 was not nearly as kind to the veteran reliever. Despite being the closer-of-choice to start the year, Lyon endured bouts of ineffectiveness during April–which cost him the job. In addition, a MRI showed that the righty had tendinitis in his biceps and a partial rotator cuff tear. Needless to say, Lyon was toast for 2011.
While most folks in Houston didn’t expect much from Brandon Lyon in 2012 (and from the $5.5 million remaining he was owed), the reliever has surprised critics with an exuberant 2.53 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and career-best 4.20 K/BB. The latter has been fueled by career highs in the strikeout (8.9 K/9) and walk (2.1 BB/9) departments. Even though his 3.82 xFIP suggests he will come back to Earth, his .333 BABIP indicates his present performance is real. Essentially, Lyon is pitching pretty darn well. As the Astros’ fourth highest paid player, the impending free-agent will certainly be moved during the deadline. The team will obviously try to deal Brett Myers and his $14 million (including his $3 million buyout) price tag first, but Lyon won’t be far behind–and perhaps a better (and cheaper) option for teams, like the Mets, who don’t technically need a closer.