Curiously, Mets Re-Sign Tim Byrdak

Sometimes, good news comes early — such as in this case: the Mets have announced their first big free-agent signing of the offseason, by re-upping lefthanded one-out specialist Tim Byrdak.

To me this is curious news, for a few reasons.

First of all, after putting together a solid year, why wouldn’t Byrdak choose to hit the open market and go to the highest bidder? While there are many LOOGYs hanging around MLB, not many have been as effective as Byrdak this season — so one would think he’d do pretty well as a free agent. But, from what has been made public, Byrdak is happy in New York and is fond of security — i.e., knowing now where he’ll be next spring. That’s understandable, especially considering all the bouncing around Byrdak has done in his career.

But that leads me to my second question: why were the Mets in a hurry to re-sign a LOOGY, when it appears that a) they’re still having financial troubles and b) 2012 will be another rebuilding year? Why would a rebuilding team need a lefty specialist in the bullpen? Wouldn’t it make more sense to find someone young — ideally someone from inside the organization — who can retire batters on both sides of the plate?

Maybe the idea is to keep Byrdak around as a trading piece for next year’s July deadline — though I’m not sure how much you can get back for a LOOGY. Or maybe the Mets are thinking Byrdak will have another stellar year and turn into a Type A free agent after 2012.

We don’t yet know the terms of the deal, but people are already proclaiming it to be a “smart move”. I’m not so sure, as I don’t see the point, from either perspective.

Your thoughts?

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. NormE September 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm
    Having a couple of lefties in the pen often forces the opposing manager to burn a pinch hitter and juggle his line-up. There doesn’t seem to be too many quality lefty relievers in the Met system that are ML ready. Thus, we have Byrdak and Herrera.

    The 2012 Met bullpen should be drastically different than this year’s. Byrdak would seem to offer some positives, such as reliability, continuity, a veteran presence and a low
    price. The Mets could (and probably will) do worse.

  2. Timo September 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm
    The only question this move answers is a question that come up this year. Why didn’t they trade Tim B at the 2011 trade deadline? Answer is they were thinking of resigning him. Which gives a explainable answer to that question. BUT, Joe you make excellent points with your other questions. MAYBE, the Mets will make some trades to help the team next year because the Free Agent market stinks next year. A few big names and alot of so-so fillers.
  3. Joe September 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm
    They have various question marks and they got to retain a useful pitcher that showed an ability now and then to go a full inning if necessary, probably pretty cheap. They probably will try various young arms. He’s a safety net while they do.

    FWIW, maybe they see him a veteran presence for various young arms, which people might think is crap, but whatever, they might think it. And, if he wants to stay, heck, it can’t be THAT bad here, right? Him making a special effort might also have influenced them somewhat.

  4. MikeT September 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm
    Or, yet again, you are over estimating the Mets financial situation. They never would have stopped the Einhorn deal had their situation not improved.
    • Joe Janish September 19, 2011 at 8:44 pm
      Me overestimating the Mets financial position? Methinks it is the Wilpons who have been overestimating their financial position for the past 10 years, thanks to that house of cards ponzi scheme.

      If the Mets’ financial situation is better than I think, then why are they still hundreds of millions of dollars in debt?

  5. JerrysKids September 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    “I don’t see the point.”

    That should be the title of this blog.

    It’s pretty obvious why they kept him. He’s a good pitcher and was willing to sign for one year. The Mets need good pitchers and you should never sign relievers for more than one year. DJ Carrasco is an example of that.

    “2012 will be another rebuilding year?”
    I’m glad that you’ve come from the future so now I can stop wasting my time reading this blog. I mean, the Mets are rebuilding after all… who cares?

    • Joe Janish September 19, 2011 at 8:59 pm
      Except that Byrdak is not a “good pitcher” — he’s a below-average to average pitcher who becomes a slightly above-average pitcher when he’s limited to facing lefthanded hitters only.

      As for my rebuilding comment, I didn’t need to waste the energy of sending my hot tub time machine to the future — all I needed to do was have a hypnotist send me back two weeks into my memory, to bring back the quotes of the Wilpons and Sandy Alderson explaining that next year would be another rebuilding year. But I forgive you because I know you only read MetsToday for your Mets news and I haven’t yet covered that topic.

  6. Tommy2cat September 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm
    Hi Joe:

    I think the Mets were quick to re-sign Byrdak after last year’s failure to re-sign Takahashi. I found myself on multiple in-game situations this year thinking that Taka would’ve been perfect for this kind spot.

    I think Byrdak chose to re-sign for the Mets to ensure job security and to place himself in a situation where he is succeeding and making money in a location where he enjoys living.

    I also think that Herrera’s emergence in the bullpen has given the Mets a respectable 1-2 punch from the left side in a division with fierce lefty hitters (Howard, Utley, McCann, Freeman, etc…)

    Byrdak’s signing is a solid move by a great GM, Sandy Alderson. It’s one less issue he has to resovle.

    • Timo September 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
      Tommy2Cat, please don’t say that Sandy is a “Great” GM. He’s never won a World Series. So, only time will tell. I remember that people thought Omar was a “”great” GM for his first moves as a GM. How did that turn out?
      Also, The sad point of this signing is to tell the casual fan that the Mets are doing something to combat the other power houses in the East. It’s a band-aid. They need to DO so much more to compete. I’m just hoping our future prospect pan out because if they don’t we’ll stink for along time (unless the Wilponzes sell).
  7. Paul September 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm
    I can see why Byrdak would want job security, considering all the bouncing around he’s done in his career.

    Unless the Mets have more money to spend than I think they do, or Byrdak signed for under $1 million, it probably wasn’t a great move for the Mets. Hopefully it won’t be as bad a choice as Sandy’s decision to sign D.J. Carrasco to a 2-year deal last off-season.

    I hate the idea of lefty specialists. I can see why a playoff contender might bring one in, but non-playoff caliber teams should definitely be trying to develop more versatile pitchers.

    • Joe Janish September 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm
      I also hate the idea of lefty specialists. Why don’t more people look at what Mike Scioscia did with his bullpen — for a few years he had no lefty at all coming out of it. Doesn’t it make more sense to have 6 guys who are good pitchers regardless of handedness, rather than have 4 or 5 guys who are good and then 1 or 2 other guys who are not so good?

      If the Mets had any chance at all of fighting for the NL East in 2012, then I sort of understand the importance of having a tough LH specialist for those big at-bats vs. Howard, Utley, Chipper, McCann, Heyward, etc. But right now they don’t look like a .500 team, much less a division contender — so shouldn’t they be more focused on bigger, more impactful parts?

      My point is that adding a good LOOGY is kind of like buying a nice leather steering wheel cover when your car has no gas, a dead battery, and four flat tires. It’s nice, but, eh, what’s the point if all you can do is sit in the driveway?

      • Joe September 20, 2011 at 8:52 am
        The Angel way might be great though labeling it as such makes it clear that the Mets aren’t doing anything special in not following it. Isn’t this like “hating” the DH or something in the AL? It’s also not as if Byrdak only was out there for single batters. He repeatedly did more.

        It didn’t take much “focus” to sign someone who went out of his way to ask. There will be plenty of slots open to test new relievers. I don’t know what the big deal is that they signed one person who is much less of a question mark. It’s not like buying a steering wheel cover instead of that other stuff.

        It’ s a trivial move and if this is the kind of “waste” they are going to do, fine. I can live with it.

        • Joe Janish September 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm
          I cannot decipher your first sentence, please re-state in another way that I might understand better.

          What does hating the DH have to do with anything? I don’t follow.

          We have been told — publicly — that the Mets’ payroll will be dropping by $20M to $30M or more. That said, every last million bucks counts. Refer to previous offseasons when the Mets handed out several “small” contracts to a bunch of stiffs like Alex Cora and Kelvim Escobar. They seem like minor signings in regard to the overall payroll but when you add them all up the sum figure could be the difference between signing or not signing someone like Jose Reyes. That’s what I mean by “focus” — if Alderson has planned a budget where he’s allotting a few million for a LOOGY, to me that is missing the big picture, because a LOOGY is a luxury that a contending team can use, rather than a necessity for a second-division club.

      • Timo September 20, 2011 at 11:06 am
        Joey Janish…Didn’t you have a leather steering wheel cover on your VW bug? Just Kidding 😉
        • Joe Janish September 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm
          Funny Timo. Too bad no one, else gets the inside joke, because it IS pretty ironic and very funny. 🙂
  8. SiddFinch September 20, 2011 at 11:31 am
    The market for FA lefty relievers this offseason is razor thin with Jeremy Affeldt as the best of a mediocre bunch. Locking up Byrdak is a solid move considering the dearth of bullpen lefties. He likes it in NY, has pitched well and comes cheaper now than he would if he hit the open market and then the Mets would’ve tried to re-sign him. You let him go and then you create a LH void in the bullpen with not much on the open market to replace him with, and because of the lack of lefty relievers, all of those arms will be terribly overpriced anyway.
    • Joe Janish September 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm
      I’ll re-state what I’ve said in a few different ways already: a LH reliever is NOT a necessity, especially not for a rebuilding team. No team “needs” a lefty reliever. Teams need solid pitching, regardless of handedness.

      Further, LOOGYs — and relievers in general — are wildly inconsistent from year to year. Byrdak has been effective for three months this season. Why do people forget how awful he was in the first half? LOOGYs are a crapshoot. I would argue that the Mets would be better served next year by paying the MLB minimum to lefties currently in the minors — maybe someone like Roy Merritt or any of a dozen minor league free agents who will be available in the offseason.

      • SiddFinch September 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm
        But then you’re relying on career or near career minor leaguers to fill that need. If those options crash and burn, then where are you? So Byrdak fits that need and does an effective job. You could go out and get a righty to do the same thing, but why do that when you already have someone in-house for the task. Because chances are you’d end up paying more or grabbing some re-tread arms to battle it out in spring training next year and despite your preference for minor league or AAAA arms, that’s a recipe for bullpen disaster.

        Who knows maybe they’re envisioning some bullpen by committee approach next season and they Byrdak as the lefty part. But my argument isn’t about lefty vs. righty, because as long as you have someone who’s effective against lefties, it doesn’t matter if they’re a portsider or not. I am in favor of the pragmatic nature of the decision.

        That being said, and on an unrelated not I’d like to see the Mets look at Broxton and Webb in the offseason. If they could one or both on heavily incentive-laden deals it would give them low-cost investments with huge upside-and possible trading chips at the deadline. Plus. Broxton will only be 28 next season.

        • SiddFinch September 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm
          Also, Byrdak in regards to “Byrdak being awful in the 1st half” he’s only had two games all season where he gave up 2 or more runs. That was in back to back games on 4/7 & 4/8.For the rest of April he only gave up 1 run over 8 appearances.

          He only pitched four innings in May and while not pitching great still managed a W and a couple of Holds.

          Other than that he’s been really good in 2012 and far from awful in the 1st half. In fact, since 2007 he’s been very consistent and effective.

        • Joe Janish September 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm
          The amount of runs he he was charged with is not indicative of whether or not he was awful. Relievers come into games all the time with inherited runners on base and allow those runs to score — but it doesn’t show on the stat line. Further, Byrdak usually comes in to face one or two hitters, so it’s rather difficult to allow more than two runs in an appearance.

          You say it’s not about lefty vs. righty, then identify a LHP as a “need” and also argue that “as long as you have someone who’s effective against lefties, it doesn’t matter if they’re a portsider or not”. I disagree, because you need pitchers who are effective against ALL hitters, regardless of which side of the plate they hit from.

          My stance: a MLB team does not “need” a LHP in the bullpen. You can disagree with that opinion, and that’s fine.

          And as for Byrdak being consistently effective since 2007, I’m assuming you are looking only at his ERA, which, again, is not an accurate measurement of a relief pitcher’s value. What I look at is the fact that in three of the past four years, Byrdak has allowed 1/3 of his inherited runners to score, and that’s too much for someone who faces one or two batters per appearance. Further, throughout his career he has allwoed a baserunner and a half for every inning he pitches (1.53 WHIP); again, that’s nothing special.

  9. Jerseymet September 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm
    Does anyone know how much Byrdak signed for?
  10. John W September 25, 2011 at 2:05 am
    Timo, check your facts. Alderson did win a World Series in ’89 with the Oakland Athletics.