After exceeding expectations and finishing April with a record of 15-11, the Mets have lost six of their last seven games to fall back under the .500 mark at 16-17.
May 7, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins center fielderMarcell Ozuna
(center) celebrates with teammates after hitting the game winning sacrifice fly in the ninth inning as New York Mets second basemanDaniel Murphy
(28) walks off the field at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Aside from enduring three horrid starts from their starting pitchers in the thin air of Denver, the Mets starting pitching has been tremendous. Their problem – both during their recently completed 2-6 road trip and before – is their offense and the inconsistency of the bullpen.
While the series in Colorado wasn’t fun for the Mets, their sweep at the hands of the Marlins is more telling, due to the fact that the failures of the offense and the bullpen were on display.
The bullpen cost the Mets a victory on Monday night and struggled again on Wednesday, while the offense failed to score in 23 consecutive innings to close out the series.
If the offense had been clicking at any point this season, calling for a change after three games against a very good Marlins staff would be an overreaction. However, the offense has been an issue since day one.
Likewise for the bullpen, which has been an inconsistent work in progress ever since Opening Day.
At 16-17 on May 7, the season is far from lost.
If the Mets hope to have a winning season in 2014, though, it would be wise for them to address their shortcomings now – before things get any uglier.
A team with internal 90 win aspirations can’t be taken seriously with Kyle Farnsworth as its closer, Ruben Tejada as its starting shortstop, and a bullpen made up of mainly retreads who have been wildly inconsistent.
So, what can be done? What should be done?
Find a legitimate closer –
Presently, Kyle Farnsworth – a pitcher who didn’t make the team out of spring training – is the closer. He took over after Bobby Parnell got hurt and Jose Valverde was ineffective. Farnsworth hasn’t been terrible, but he’s been inconsistent enough that manager Terry Collins has already had to reaffirm that Farnsworth is still the closer.
The Mets have several internal options they can turn to to replace Farnsworth, such as Gonzalez Germen (in the near-term), Jeurys Familia (if he continues to throw strikes), Jacob deGrom, and perhaps Jenrry Mejia. There’s also Vic Black, who has a 0.73 ERA with Triple-A Las Vegas, and has tossed three consecutive outings without walking a batter.
Whoever the Mets turn to won’t be a perfect option, but they’ll be someone with upside who has a chance to be a long-term solution.
Find a starting shortstop –
The Mets made importing a starting shortstop their top priority prior to the offseason, but failed to do anything to address the position. Due to that fact, the Mets are left with the two shortstops they had in 2014 – Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla.
While Tejada has been a bit unlucky BABIP wise, his sub-.190 batting average and career-high strikeout rate has turned him into a player who is pinch-hit for with regularity late in games. Simply put, he isn’t a starting caliber shortstop in the major leagues at this point.
Having Tejada in the lineup on a regular basis is almost like having two pitchers spots – something that has helped bring down the offense.
Since the Mets don’t have any shortstops in their system who profile as starters and are close to contributing, they’ll have to go outside the organization to find a replacement for Tejada (who can shift to a reserve role).
Add reinforcements to the bullpen –
Unless the Mets deal three or four starting pitchers who are currently in the majors or Triple-A, they’ll have more starting pitchers than slots once the Super-Two date passes.
The Mets should absolutely trade a starting pitcher or two, but they’ll likely still have to make room for either Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom in the bullpen. Additionally, Vic Black should be called up soon.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka (calf), Carlos Torres (lat), and Scott Rice (back) all dealing with injuries, the Mets should be proactive with their handling of the bullpen. Jose Valverde, who may be getting a bit of a bad rap, has also become an afterthought in the pen.
Whatever the Mets decide to do, some combination of Montero/Black/deGrom should be added to the bullpen, while some combination of Matsuzaka/Valverde/Rice (if he lands on the disabled list) is replaced.