What were the New York Mets thinking when they brought Jeurys Familia back before the 2019 season?
Now two seasons into the contract, it’s safe to ask: what were they thinking?
It’s hard to believe that Familia was once one of the league’s best closers. In 2015 and 2016, he combined to save 94 games for the Mets. His 51 in 2016 led the league and set a standard of excellence he would never repeat.
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Familia has never the perfect relief pitcher. He had a tendency to come up short in big games. He pitched his way into trouble far too often.
After the Mets traded him to Oakland, it looked like the stressful days of watching him load the bases were over. Not so fast. Brodie Van Wagenen had other ideas.
Familia was a free agent and the Mets needed to improve their bullpen. Days after landing star closer Edwin Diaz in a trade with the Seattle Mariners, BVW brought back the former Mets closer. As they say, the rest is history.
We saw the absolute worst of Familia in 2019. In 66 appearances, the veteran hurler had a 5.70 ERA. No longer the team’s closer, the thought that he would adapt well to pitching in a setup role quickly faded. Familia was, at this point, just not very good.
This past year did include some more positive frames. In 25 appearances for the 2020 Mets, Familia lowered his ERA down to 3.71. However, he still did walk 6.4 batters per nine. Strikeouts were more difficult than ever for him to find. He fanned batters at a rate of only 7.8 per nine.
The sample size we saw in 2020 isn’t enough to think one way or another about this veteran Mets reliever. It is, though, enough to further question why the team brought him back.
Well, there’s an obvious answer. Familiarity with Familia probably played a big role. Outside of his 2017 season, he was fantastic for the club since becoming a regular reliever in 2014. Whether it was Van Wagenen, a Wilpon, or someone else within the organization that wanted to see him on the 2019-2021 rosters, it wasn’t such an outlandish idea. Familia has just turned 31 this month which means he’s well on his way to getting another free agent contract following the 2021 season.
Despite his faults, Familia has been a solid pitcher throughout his major league career.
Something we can question is how much money the Mets gave him. Over the three years he’ll spend with the club, the contract called for a total of $30 million. This is the kind of money I would rather see the team spend on a closer. Fortunately, they didn’t have to with Edwin Diaz still under team control.
We’re Monday Morning General Managing whenever we question the Familia signing. Aside from the amount of money and the likeliness that the Mets outbid themselves, it was a reunion that could have worked out well.
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One year remains on his contract to turn things around. Can he do it? Or will this free agent signing become another scar on Van Wagenen’s resume?