Sandy Alderson recently expressed a willingness to enter the upcoming season with six righties and one left-hander in the bullpen.
I’m confident that if Josh Edgin is overburdened as the lone southpaw in the bullpen, he will not last the season.
Sep 9, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcherJosh Edgin
(66) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
In fact, the Mets have needed a second left-hander for years. Recent history suggests they’ve routinely overtaxed their one main southpaw to the point of injury.
The poster child for reliever abuse is Pedro Feliciano. He led the National League with 86 appearances in 2008, 88 in 2009, and 92 in 2010. Feliciano parlayed that into a two-year contract with the Yankees. However, he was the one who ultimately paid a heavy price, by requiring surgery and missing both seasons.
Tim Byrdak made 72 appearances in 2011, and was leading the league with 56 appearances in 2012 when he was shut down with a shoulder injury that also required surgery. Manager Terry Collins even admitted his overuse likely played a role in Byrdak’s injury.
Scott Rice was similarly overworked. He made 73 appearances in 2013, and posted a 3.71 ERA in 51 innings pitched. In 32 appearances and 13.2 innings last season, Rice’s ERA skyrocketed to 5.93, his FIP ballooned to 5.03, and his WHIP swelled to 1.97. An elbow injury that required surgery ended his dreadful season on June 8.
Rice, 33, was re-signed to a minor league contract, and will be back in Spring Training competing for a bullpen spot.
Joining the competition will be Rule 5 acquisition Sean Gilmartin, who turns 25-years old in May. Gilmartin has four years of experience as a starting pitcher in the Braves’ system and most recently the Twins organization. In 26 combined starts between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Gilmartin had a 3.71 ERA, but put up fantastic numbers against left-handed hitters. In 145.2 innings, he averaged 2.7 BB/9 and struck out 8.2 per 9. Gilmartin must be offered back to the Twins if he does not spend the entire upcoming season with the Mets at the major league level.
While Leathersich is a strikeout machine, he is still too erratic, having failed to demonstrate sufficient control in two attempts at the Triple-A level. Darin Gorski would be the better bet. Like Gilmartin, Gorski has been a starter for most of his minor league career. Last year, in a combined season at Binghamton and Las Vegas, Gorski had a 3.33 ERA, but a huge 1.60 WHIP. In 100 innings, he averaged 2.8 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9.
Of the Binghamton candidates, Dario Alvarez, 26, has the potential to become the dark horse of camp. Alvarez enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 split between Low-A Savannah, High-A Port St. Lucie, and Double-A Binghamton.
In 20 appearances and 61.1 innings pitched for the Savannah Sand Gnats, Alvarez posted a 1.32 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He averaged a 6.3 H/9, a 2.1 BB/9, and an impressive 13.9 K/9. Combined, Alvarez made 29 appearances (six starts) to go along with a 1.10 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. In 73.1 total innings pitched, he allowed a mere 48 hits and fanned 114 batters.
With regards to acquiring an additional left-hand reliever on the open market, the Wilpon’s financial straits should factor little. To be frank, an additional $2 million dollar expenditure (at the most) is not something that should make or break the team’s budget, or cause any onlooking banker’s benevolence to wain.
If they’re so intent on trading Dillon Gee or another starter and perhaps Daniel Murphy, then asking the club to make a small monetary investment on the front end, and waiting for salary relief on the back end of any potential trade, is not an unreasonable request.
If left-handed relief can be acquired by trading any of the aforementioned players, that’s fine too, as long as it gets done prior to Opening Day.
Last offseason’s run on relief pitchers took place in December. This offseason’s reliever market has been late in forming, but once the ribbon is cut, signings should occur quickly.
Some of the notable left-hand relievers still available include Phil Coke, Joe Beimel, David Huff, and Neal Cotts. However, the Mets don’t even need to shoot that high. They simply need a serviceable lefty to share innings with Josh Edgin.
The fan base is increasingly skeptical of ownership’s genuine willingness to contend this upcoming season, and the Mets have no one to blame but themselves. I suggest then, they stop having their general manager pay us lip service, and just pony up a few bucks for another southpaw in the bullpen.
Such a small gesture would pay huge dividends in the eyes of the fans, and actually benefit the team in the process.
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