The failure to trade Dillon Gee is creating problems in the bullpen


Probable 2015 Bullpen:

April: Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Carlos Torres, Dillon Gee, Josh Edgin , and a second left-hander.

May: Bobby Parnell, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Carlos Torres, Dillon Gee, and Josh Edgin.

Battle of the Closers:

The Mets have been hard pressed to get both Bobby Parnell and Jenrry Mejia contributing at the same time. After combining for 74 appearances in 2010, they have played together very infrequently since.

Mejia missed the entire 2011 season, and only made five appearances for the Mets in each of 2012 and 2013. Then of course, he served as the closer last season in Parnell’s absence. He is returning from surgery for a sports hernia performed in October.

It’s been a long two years for Bobby Parnell. After making a career high 74 appearances in 2012, he was limited to just 49 appearances the following season as a herniated disk in his neck requiring surgery caused him to miss the last two months of 2013. Then, shortly after blowing a save opportunity in the 2014 season opener, it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery.

If there is to be a head-to-head competition for the closer’s role, it won’t start until late-April or early May, when Bobby Parnell is expected to return from the disabled list. By then, he’ll be nearly 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery. This past Thursday, Parnell faced live hitters for the first time (no swings were attempted) since surgery. Obviously, the supreme test will be how his arm responds once again to major league competition.

That being said, I feel Terry Collins spoke unnecessarily, and perhaps unwisely, when he made no secret of his preference for Bobby Parnell as closer. As he put it, Jenrry Mejia will need to pitch lights-out in April in order to retain the job; we see closer as the best fit for Parnell.

Why not let the situation play itself out, particularly when Parnell’s status is still pending? Why marginalize Mejia’s 2014 effort?  At this juncture, why say anything at all?

Either way, I’m looking forward to having both Parnell and Mejia contribute for a near full season together.

Six is Company, Gee’s a Crowd:

Because of Sandy Alderson’s failure to trade a starting pitcher during the off-season, the bullpen must accommodate the overflow. The Mets’ rotation is tentatively set with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Jon Niese, thus relegating Dillon Gee to the bullpen.

The road ahead for Gee is potentially rife with intrigue. For now, he must embrace the change and adapt.

Another pitcher who stands to be negatively impacted by this development is Rafael Montero.

For the moment, there’s room to fit both Dillon Gee and Rafael Montero in the bullpen.  However, should Rafael Montero head north with the club, Bobby Parnell’s return would potentially overload the Mets with an unfeasible seven right-handers.  That scenario would likely cause the Mets to exhaust one of Montero’s options.

Johnny on the Southpaw!

Sandy Alderson already stated his willingness to enter the season with Josh Edgin as the lone left-hander in the bullpen. That reeks of imbalance, not to mention Alderson is inviting trouble if he commits Josh Edgin to such an abusive workload.

With Terry Collins‘ history of handling the bullpen, we know that’s easier done than said. Arm surgeries required in successive seasons by left-handers Pedro Feliciano, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice are all the evidence one needs to establish an injurious trend.

When Bobby Parnell returns, Gee himself could theoretically be sacrificed in order to accommodate a second lefty. Gee may not want to hear this, but the Mets still have options. Gee has less than fiver years of service and can not refuse an optional assignment. He can, however, refuse an outright assignment and elect to become a free agent.

Carlos Torres is out of options, and Gee is unlikely to bump Vic Black (who has one option left). The situation shouldn’t degrade to that level, but this demonstrates the resulting domino effect not trading a starting pitcher this offseason has initiated.

The leading left-handed candidate to join Edgin is Rule 5 acquisition Sean Gilmartin. If he does not remain on the Mets’ roster he must be returned to the Minnesota Twins. Gilmartin has been a starter over four minor league seasons, but has demonstrated a proficiency against left-handed batters.

If he is in fact here to inadvertently threaten Dillon Gee’s roster spot, here’s a case:

Sean Gilmartin:

  • 2013 vs. LHB: .219 average against/.254 OBP/.383 slugging
  • 2014 vs. LHB: .201 average against/.219 OBP/.235 slugging

Dillon Gee:

  • 2013 vs. LHB: .288 average against/.350 OBP/.472 slugging
  • 2014 vs. LHB: .254 average against/.321 OBP/.398 slugging

The remaining competition for the second left-hander spot also includes non-roster invitee Scott Rice, who is returning from surgery, and minor league prospects Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich.

Help!  I Need Somebody:

Someone put a leash on Terry Collins. The 2014 Mets bullpen led the National League in appearances.

The man simply needs to exercise more faith in his starting pitchers this season. After 15 outs, he breaks out in a fever, and his only cure seems to be incessant pitching changes. Through the years his anxiety even resulted in some awfully mismanaged and confounding warm-ups.

In 2014, Carlos Torres was 12th in the National League with 72 appearances, but led the circuit with 92 innings pitched. Jeurys Familia was third in the league with 76 appearances, and tied for third with 77.1 innings pitched.

Early in 2014, Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde did lots to pollute the bullpen’s stats, but the unit still managed to finish with the National League’s fourth best (3.14) ERA.

However, the Mets had the fifth most save opportunities in the National League, tied for the third most blown saves, and were fourth in bullpen losses. They were ninth in saves, converting 42 of 64 chances last season.

Blowing half as many saves would be one way to achieve 89 wins this season.

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