Are Mets feeling buyer’s remorse over signing Antonio Bastardo?

Jul 7, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman Daniel Murphy (20) rounds third base in front of New York Mets relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo (59) after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 7, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Washington Nationals first baseman Daniel Murphy (20) rounds third base in front of New York Mets relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo (59) after hitting a solo home run during the seventh inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Few, if any, argued against signing free agent left hand reliever Antonio Bastardo for two years.

He was a generally well-regarded acquisition, with the thought he’d make a strong Mets bullpen even stronger.

His April performance was on par with expectations, posting a 2.61 ERA with 16 strikeouts in nine games and 10.1 innings pitched.

But when the calendar flipped, his season experienced a considerable turn for the worse.  Antonio posted an unsightly 5.73 ERA through 11 innings in May, and a whopping 6.35 ERA through 11.1 innings in June.

The beleaguered reliever’s 4.15 ERA through five appearances in July is notably down from his distressing Spring performance, sure, but his effectiveness is still nowhere near what the Mets need from their left-handed veteran specialist.

An otherwise healthy 30-year-old Antonio Bastardo made two appearances during last weekend’s series against the first place Washington Nationals, in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits, no walks, and struck out three over two innings pitched and ten batters faced.

A full week then went by before Terry Collins loogied him again at the very tail end of a 6-2 loss on June 16 in Philadelphia.  Bastardo faced one batter, threw three pitches, recorded an out, then walked away quietly into the night.

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Of the Opening Day main core of relievers – Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Jerry BlevinsHansel Robles – all presently have more appearances than Bastardo.  Were Jim Henderson not on the disabled list, he would certainly have more appearances than Bastardo as well.  Henderson’s 31st and last appearance came on June 18, while Bastardo’s last appearance in Philadelphia was his 36th to date.

In fact, Terry Collins has not exerted Bastardo any more, or less, than he’s been accustomed to over his eight year career.  With the exception of 2013, in which he only appeared in 29 percent of Philadelphia’s games, Bastardo appeared in roughly 40 percent of Phillies games, 40 percent of Pittsburgh Pirates games in 2015, and 40 percent of Mets games thus far under Collins.

Bastardo’s struggles therefore are not simply matters of inconsistent work, or needing the ball more.

Antonio’s arm is doing all his talking for him.  According to Fangraphs, Bastardo’s 91.3 mph fastball is down 1.4 mph off last year’s 92.7 mph mark; his secondary pitches are naturally down over a full mph as well.  His 9.5 K/9 is presently at a career low, his 8.5 H/9 average is the highest it has been since 2010, while his 4.4 W/9 is so far consistent with his career 4.3 mark.

It’s clear the already maneuvering-challenged Terry Collins is arriving at his wit’s end. And quite frankly, I can’t blame him because the Mets have gone 12-24 where and whenever Antonio Bastardo is involved.

Moreover, if modern baseball history has taught us anything, it’s that better days may not necessarily lay ahead either.  The former Phillies and Pirates reliever apparently suffers SEOS syndrome, or, he Sucks Every Other Season  – a classic trend and common malady among relief pitchers.

Bastardo’s ERA: 2010 – present

  • 2009 – Six appearances.
  • 2010 – 4.34
  • 2011 – 2.64
  • 2012 – 4.33
  • 2013 – 2.32
  • 2014 – 3.94
  • 2015 – 2.98
  • 2016 – 4.86

With regards to 2017, I’m not so sure he’ll fare any better.

Perhaps no Mets player on the present 25-man roster is more happy to have Bastardo around than outfielder Alejandro De Aza – to help deflect negative attention away from his own crisis in fan confidence, of course.

Whether said in jest, or not, De Aza is indeed wasting roster space that for all intent and purpose should be freed up for Michael Conforto AND Brandon Nimmo, Travis Taijeron, etc.

With regards to prospects and opportunity, I’m of the mind, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In any event, De Aza will be gone this off-season in a New York City minute.  But another year left on Antonio’s contract means TC’s nightmare isn’t even half-way through.

Can Antonio Bastardo turn himself around and become a valuable contributor down the stretch?

Sure … why not?  What benefits the Mets sits well with me.  But I seriously doubt he will.

Particularly not when influenced by Josh Edgin‘s performance so far with the Las Vegas 51s.  Josh is 1-1 with two saves, and a 2.35 ERA, and has so far allowed 18 hits and 12 walks in 23 innings pitched for a 1.30 WHiP, with 23 strikeouts.

However, Edgin has yet to regain his former 95 mph fastball.  For the moment, it’s topping out no higher than Bastardo’s.  I’m nevertheless encouraged with Edgin’s progress because his fastball was only registering 87-88 mph as of May 5.  So, where on the one hand I feel Antonio’s shelf life is expiring before our eyes, on the other I believe Edgin still has better days ahead.

Prior to his last MLB pitch on Sep. 23, 2014, Edgin was seemingly breaking out through 47 appearances, in which he posted a stellar 1.32 ERA and 0.915 WHIP, with 28 strikeouts, and a career low 2.0 W/9 average in 27.1 innings pitched.

Bastardo is owed $6,625,000 next season.  You know exactly where I’m headed with this.

I do not make a habit of petitioning the Mets to eat salary – never have.  I try keeping personnel mistakes in context, sometimes with great pain.  It happens to the best of general managers.

But it’s not often that you get to defend a National League pennant.

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Money can be recouped by winning baseball games in August and September, and by selling non refundable hot dogs and beer in the post-season if things go well enough. Although there are cases to be made against being all-in this season, making the playoffs is still the goal.

I’m obviously speaking independently of Sandy Alderson’s potential trade deadline objectives. Plus, I’ve already been scolded by friends for raising such ideas.  I still can’t help but think addition by subtraction in this instance is arguably warranted.

You’re welcome to pile on, though.