Who is Left for Mets Bullpen?
Scott Rice and Jack Leathersich have been demoted to minor league camp, leaving Dario Alvarez and Sean Gilmartin as the lone lefties in the Mets bullpen. There’s fair argument that neither Alvarez nor Gilmartin will make the Opening Day roster, either. If that’s the case, what southpaw or southpaws will be in the Mets bullpen when the real games begin?
Then again, do the Mets NEED to have a lefthander in their bullpen? Mike Scioscia went entire seasons without a lefty in his bullpen during the Angels’ dominance of the AL West in the early part of this millennium, so it’s not an unheard-of concept. A few weeks ago, Terry Collins said he didn’t necessarily need a lefty in the bullpen … but … his boss Sandy Alderson “couldn’t foresee” a lefty-less Mets bullpen. Hmm … well, if you saw (or are old-school, and read) Moneyball, then you know who wins this argument.
Before we move on, just for a second let’s consider Collins’ assertion that he doesn’t need a lefthander in his bullpen. The NL has fewer frightening lefthanded-hitting sluggers than it has had in the past. The most dangerous southpaw sluggers in the NL East are Freddie Freeman, and … who? Maybe there’s a scintilla of fear when Ryan Howard steps in the batter’s box, and certainly, he’s completely erased if a lefty is on the mound. The Mets play almost half of their games against divisional opponents, so maybe a LOOGY isn’t all that necessary. What other dangerous lefty hitters exist outside the division? Anthony Rizzo, Adrian Gonzalez, and Joey Votto are the only ones that I can think of off the top of my head — and neither Votto nor Rizzo are significantly neutralized by left-handed pitching. After going to Baseball-Reference, I was reminded by Jay Bruce, Justin Morneau, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon, but otherwise, it’s a pretty short list of scary left-handed hitters. Maybe that doesn’t matter — maybe it’s good to have a LOOGY to neutralize the average lefthanded hitters who become terrible against lefties. I don’t know; I always liked Scioscia’s approach of simply stocking the bullpen with the BEST arms you have, regardless of which hand they use to throw the baseball.
There’s another nice thing about no lefty in the bullpen: there’s no opportunity for matchups. How many times in the past few years have we seen Terry Collins bring in a lefty to face a lefty, or righty to face a righty, even when statistically it didn’t make any sense at all? How many times have we seen a matchup move that appeared to be for no other reason than for Collins to save face during the postgame press conference? In some ways, it could be argued that the fewer decisions Collins can make, the better off the Mets will be.
But let’s get back to reality: big boss man Alderson believes a big-league bullpen must have a lefty. If neither Alvarez nor Gilmartin is the answer, who will come from the outside? There has been buzz about Brian Matusz, but the Mets reportedly are looking for cash coming back as part of a trade. Really? The guy makes $3.2M this year, which is more than I’ll ever make in my lifetime, but is incredibly affordable in the Monopoly-money world of MLB. If the Mets don’t want to or can’t spend a few million to fill a gaping hole in their bullpen, every person buying a season ticket should reconsider their decision, because a big-league team that is intent on making the postseason doesn’t quibble over a few million bucks to answer a burning question — not even in a small market. Sandy Alderson insisted for four years that the Mets needed payroll flexibility in order to succeed when the time was right. Well guess what? The payroll is well under $100M, and the team claims to be “ready to compete.” So … what’s the hold up? Why the penny-pinching? What are the Mets saving up for?
If it isn’t Matusz, other lefties who may be available now or in the coming days include Jerry Blevins and Xavier Cedeno of the Nationals; J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, and Adam Liberatore of the Dodgers (though Howell is even more expensive than Matusz); Boone Logan and Rex Brothers of the Rockies; Ian Krol, Blaine Hardy, and Kyle Ryan of the Tigers; Martire Garcia and Ross Detwiler of the Rangers; Zac Rosscup of the Cubs; and Brad Hand of the Marlins. Sam Freeman might have been available, but the Cardinals just traded him to the Rangers, who seem intent on keeping the lefty. As far as freebies, the Marlins have released Donnie Joseph, the Braves cut James Russell (who pitches much better against right-handed hitters), and the Cubs released Felix Doubront. By no means is this the full list of LOOGYs that may potentially be available between now and Opening Day; what I’d like is for you to provide some suggestions in the comments. Alternatively, feel free to support the argument that the Mets don’t need a lefthander in the bullpen (even if it’s not right away), and/or, if you have an in-house suggestion.