Bullpen is Not Done

Congratulations to Omar Minaya for shortening 2009 Mets games to seven innings. Indeed, the one-two punch of “K-Putz” has the potential to be the most effective since the Mariano Rivera – John Wetteland duo of 1996. However, there is still the matter of the innings one through seven.

The Mets didn’t get the innings-eating Derek Lowe to plug up the front end of their rotation, and as a result, it looks like another season of starters who struggle to get into, and through, the sixth inning. So even with K-Putz waiting to shut the door, Mets games will still be a crapshoot during the sixth and seventh frames. For one, Pedro Feliciano won’t suddenly evolve from his ideal role of LOOGY — been there, tried that, it didn’t work. Sean Green might be helpful, or he may be another Jon Adkins. Joe Smith is gone. Brian Stokes is back, but can he be as good through 65-70 games as he was in his two dozen appearances of last year? A couple of Rule 5 picks might have a chance to stick — Darren O’Day and Rocky Cherry. Connor Robertson — the guy the Mets received in return for Scott Schoeneweis — might be worse than Adkins. What all these names tell us most is, the sixth and the seventh innings are no more a slam dunk than they were last year.

Luckily, there is still time to rectify the situation. First, there are a number of intriguing free agent middle relievers looking for a new team. For example, Juan Cruz, Brandon Lyon, and Jason Isringhausen are unemployed. 2008 Mets Luis Ayala, Ricardo Rincon, and Matt Wise are waiting for an ST invite. Chad Cordero auditioned for a bunch of teams, and I’m stunned that Omar Minaya hasn’t locked him up yet. Most recently, the Red Sox DFA’d David Aardsma, a guy who I clamored for this time last year.

My favorites are Cordero, Rincon, Ayala, and Aardsma. Cordero because he’s a low-risk, high-reward type, with a strong competitive fire. I like Rincon because he’s just as good as any other available LOOGY, but will come at a fraction of the cost and will require only a one-year commitment. Ayala is another competitor who was misplaced as a setup man/closer last year, but would be perfect as a 6th/7th inning guy. Aardsma is a diamond in the rough, a late bloomer type in the mold of a Dan Wheeler.

Before you laugh about Aardsma’s 5.55 ERA last year, understand that he pitched 24 of his 47 games in Fenway Park, which can have a dramatic effect on a pitcher’s mentality, focus, and performance. Before you write him off, consider his numbers outside of Fenway Park — 23 IP, 15 H, 19 K, 13 BB, 2.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. Wow. That’s like, as good as Juan Cruz — and Aardsma did that in the AL East.

Obviously, the Mets’ biggest issue right now is located a #3 starter. But in the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a few more cans of paint for the bullpen wall. Cordero would be a nice calculated gamble, and any one of the others would provide ample depth. What the Mets have done for middle relief, to this point, is change the names — that’s not necessarily the same as improving. As we know, change by itself is not always better. Picking up one or two quality arms will complete the bullpen overhaul, and make the ENTIRE relief corps a team strength.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. kerelcooper January 16, 2009 at 8:01 am
    Agreed the bullpen is not done but I think we can live with what we have. The Mets must pick up another frontline starting pitcher and a big hitting left fielder. I’d like to see an upgrade at 2b as well.
  2. joe January 16, 2009 at 11:17 am
    Well yeah, we can “live” …. unfortunately it doesn’t look like that big bat will be in LF, Castillo is returning to 2B, and the closest thing to a “frontline” starting pitcher will be Ollie Perez.

    The Mets waited too long on the starting pitching market, and now they’re screwed. They waited too long on the OF bats, and now they’re screwed. In a few more weeks, the window for O-dog will be closed. Now if they wait to address the final pieces of the bullpen, it will be yet another area that needed improvement, that wasn’t addressed.

  3. sincekindergarten January 17, 2009 at 8:56 am
    Joe, just when did the Santana trade take place? Late in January, and the extension wasn’t worked out until the beginning of February, IIRC. There’s time . . . but the sands are leaving the upper chamber of the hourglass. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll hear something about another frontline pitcher by this time next week.
  4. joe January 17, 2009 at 11:33 am
    SK, I do get where you’re coming from. Sure, there’s time. The Santana deal was late, and the pre ’06 deals for Maine and Sanchez were late. But the difference this year is the Mets have no one to trade — they did their “unload every valuable chip in the organization” deal in December for Putz. There are no “frontline” pitchers left on the FA market — unless the oft-injured Sheets, the Jekyll and Hyde Ollie, and the mediocre Garland are “frontline”.

    But who knows …. I hope you’re right … maybe the Mets can pull the wool over Houston’s eyes and trade Nick Evans for Roy Oswalt.