Who’s Next for Mets Bullpen?

The Mets bullpen now is 28th out of 30 in MLB in ERA (4.48), 28th in batting average against (.264), 27th in OPS allowed (.748), and 26th in WHIP (1.47). They do, however, lead all of MLB in one category: stolen bases allowed (25).

Clearly, some changes need to be made in terms of personnel. But who can the Mets acquire or promote?

For a while, the most reliable arms out of the ‘pen — aside from closer Frankie Rodriguez — were Jason Isringhausen and Pedro Beato. However, neither of those men were ready for the heavy workload thrust upon them in the first two months of the season. Izzy pitched all of 5 professional innings in 2010 after TJ surgery in 2009, and was playing softball before joining Mets spring training. Beato was in better shape, but might not have been ready for the regular (ab)use of MLB middle relief. He appeared in 43 AA games last year, which accounted for about 30% of his team’s games, and was used almost exclusively as a closer — only occasionally pitching multiple innings. Contrast that to appearing in 11 of the Mets’ first 28 games (39%), which included five outings of two or more innings.

You can’t necessarily blame manager Terry Collins for running Izzy and Beato out to the mound night after night. It’s not as though he’s had much choice, and he can’t worry about the long-term consequences when the financially strapped Mets need to win as often as possible in the early going to give the perception they’re “in the race” and in turn sell tickets.

With Isringhausen and Beato now faltering — and seemingly because of exhaustion — the Mets need to find more arms to work out of the ‘pen. Bobby Parnell is the first obvious choice, and he pitched a scoreless inning last night, lighting up the radar gun around 97-98 MPH. Manny Acosta and Dale Thayer do not appear to be answers, and neither is Tim Byrdak. So the Mets will have to look to their minor league system, and/or make a deal.

In Buffalo, the Mets have their major free agent signee D.J. Carrasco taking a start every five days. He’s been uneven, though his last two starts were strong. The problem, though, is that he’s been used exclusively as a starter since April 30th; so can he handle the almost-daily rigors of relief again? And, can the Mets afford to remove him from their list of insurance starters? Maybe, since Chris Schwinden seems to be adjusting well to AAA. And actually, Schwinden could be considered as a relief option; he’s come out of the bullpen 20 times in his young pro career. Beyond those two, there hasn’t been much quality coming out of the Bisons bullpen. Ryota Igarashi has put up solid numbers, but he has yet to reproduce them at the big-league level. There is also journeyman lefty Justin Hampson throwing up zeroes; I imagine both he and Iggy must be considered, as well as John Lujan, who has been decent after being promoted from AA.

Speaking of AA, I’m not seeing anyone getting promoted from Binghamton just yet. It doesn’t make any sense to promote Brad Holt or Jeurys Familia to pitch middle relief in the bigs, and there really isn’t anyone else anywhere close to MLB-ready.

As far as acquiring a reliever, I don’t know how that could happen, nor do I know who the Mets might be able to get. They don’t have much in the way of trading chips, and any decent reliever is likely unavailable at the moment. My guess is the Mets need to keep a sharp eye on the waiver wire, and check around AAA for someone pitching well but not in line for a promotion. Even then, it’s going to be tough. For example, Cory Wade is pitching well in AAA right now, but I’d think the Rays would prefer to hold on to him for insurance rather than trade him away. Decent pitchers who are available are a rarity right now.

Who am I missing, either in the Mets organization or outside of it? Post your ideas in the comments.

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. Hiro June 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm
    Nick Carr comes to mind. He is probably too far off, but he seems to have the stuff (and since this season the control as well) to help mid-term.
  2. Mike June 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm
    If the Mets ever decided to move Brad Holt to the bullpen, then he could move quickly. Everything that is said about him is that his struggles with command are mental. Perhaps he would be better suited to the bullpen, so he can focus on three outs instead of 18+. This certainly is not a now move, but still he could move quickly if that decision was made.
  3. Joe June 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm
    This is true enough but last night the Brewers pen gave up five runs before the Mets gave up the same. Useful to remember your problems aren’t just your own.

    When the team is up by four, isn’t that the time to save Beato, and throw in Thayer? I would even say Acosta, though he didn’t look too promising the last time. I’m not totally inclined to give Terry a pass yesterday.

    • Joe Janish June 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm
      Just because the Brewers ‘pen gave up five runs doesn’t necessarily mean the Brewers have a “problem” with their bullpen (or at least, it may not be as big a problem as it is for the Mets) — it could just mean that the Brewers relievers had a bad night.

      I pointed out the statistical rankings for a reason: the Mets bullpen isn’t just bad from our perspective, it’s bad compared to all other MLB teams.

      • Joe June 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm
        They had two bad nights in a row. It wasn’t their bullpen that prevented a similar inning the night before.

        I don’t think the Brewers are as bad as the Mets or anything. But, when but a good catch stops you from giving up nine runs in two games against a sub-500 team, it seems notable. And, other teams also have such problems.

  4. Mic June 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm
    I like brad holt as a reliever too.
  5. izzy June 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm
    Interesting that you want to excuse Collins for overusing Beato and Isringhausen. Who didn’t bomb away on Manuel for overusing Feliciano and Nieve? Same exact scenario. No other choices, and the manager’s need to win the game. Valid excuse but for some reason Terry is immune from criticism while Manuel wasn’t, and to go back a bit, neither was Willie.
    • Joe Janish June 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm
      The need to sell tickets wasn’t nearly as obvious in the past as it is this season. I only suspected that the Wilpons were bearing down on their GM and manager in past years; this year, with MLB unofficially and passive-aggressively taking over the team, the money issue is a patent fact and there is more pressure to win early in the season than ever before.

      If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I likely would excuse both Manuel and Randolph.