2) Tendering a contract to non-optional Phil Bickford blocks the bullpen
Choosing to tender a contract to Phil Bickford wasn’t too awful of a choice by Stearns. He finished the year strong. Younger than most of the free agents they could’ve signed and controllable, it was a worthwhile decision to keep Bickford around.
The troubling part of this decision is Bickford is out of minor league options which puts him in immediate DFA jeopardy. A weakness of the Mets roster construction this offseason has been how tight they’ve gotten in terms of having the ability to circulate relievers from the majors to minors. Among the pitchers, only Shintaro Fujinami and Kodai Senga can be optioned to the minor leagues. It’s going to limit the Mets if they were to ever need a sixth starter or just a fresh arm.
It was surprising to see the Mets add as many arms to the bullpen as they did in such a short period. All winter, we sat here thinking Jorge Lopez and Michael Tonkin were the biggest they’d go. Adam Ottavino, Jake Diekman, and Fujinami completely changed the perspective.
What’s interesting is the Mets now have an overcrowding of relief pitchers. Bickford and Tonkin can’t both be on the roster. Neither can obvious DFA candidate Sean Reid-Foley or Yohan Ramirez who was added via trade with the Chicago White Sox.
It’s obvious what Stearns is doing. Because the final roster decisions don’t need to be made until Opening Day, he can hold onto as many arms as the 40-man roster allows him to. Injuries are going to happen. But some ensuing chaos is bound to happen with several guys being lost for nothing later on this year. It all began by keeping Bickford whose time with the Mets will be limited.