State of the Bullpen Address

As we continue to prepare for the Hot Stove Season, let’s take a look at the current state of the Mets’ bullpen. Following is a list of legitimate bullpen candidates who will be under contract with the New York Mets after the free agency filing period has commenced.

Solid (meaning, not injured and not likely to be starters)

Billy Wagner
Aaron Heilman
Pedro Feliciano
Joe Smith
Scott Schoeneweis
Guillermo Mota
Willie Collazo
Carlos Muniz

Questionable

Duaner Sanchez
Juan Padilla

Potential

Mike Pelfrey
Philip Humber
Jason Vargas
Adam Bostick

Longshots

Steve Schmoll
Eddie Camacho
Matt Durkin
Ryan Cullen
Tim McNab
Eddie Kunz

Notes: Aaron Sele, Dave Williams, Brian Lawrence, and Jorge Sosa are all free agents. Jon Adkins and Lino Urdaneta were granted free agency. Ambiorix Burgos underwent Tommy John surgery and is gone until 2009.

OK, after assessing bullpens around the National League in 2007 (What Went Wrong: Bullpen, Bullpen Part Two), we’ve come to the conclusion that a team needs an absolute minimum of TEN relief pitchers to get through a summer. But that’s only the part of it. If you go team by team, and check out the statistical splits for the pitching staffs “as a reliever”, you’ll find that nearly every NL squad used between 17 and 25 (or more) people as relievers. Yes, maybe 4-5 of those people threw only an inning or two, but the bottom line is, a team must have unprecedented depth in their bullpen simply to get through the grind of a 162-game season.

My rough estimate is that the Mets need to have at least 20 arms to call upon over the course of the 2008 summer. Think that’s a high number? Consider this: 15 Mets threw at least one inning in relief in 2007 — which was the lowest total in the NL. There’s no question their bullpen was overworked this past season, and much of it had to do with the reluctance to change bodies.

I think we’ve already beaten this to death though — if you disagree, and think the Mets can go into 2008 with a similar bullpen plan (six bodies filling set roles from April to October), then stop reading this article. Also check to see if any of the starting pitchers from the 1980 Oakland A’s are available.

So, let’s assume the Mets’ bullpen needs to be 20 deep. Of course they’re not going to carry 20 relievers on the 25-man roster. Figure on El Duque, Mike Pelfrey, and Philip Humber throwing out of the bullpen here and there, and we’ll bring it down to 17. That means you’d have at least 7 on the Major League roster, and another 10 in the minors.

Now look again at the current pitchers under contract. There are 8 “solids”, 2 “questionables”, and 6 “longshots”. That’s 16. If you add all four “potentials”, you’re up to 20. So there’s already enough depth in the organization, right?

Sure, if you want to finish in third place. There are too many doubts and question marks regarding the 20. For example, will Sanchez and Padilla be healthy? We hope so, but who really knows? Will any of the “longshots” really be a viable option? Maybe only one or two. Will the Mets convert any of the four “potentials” from starting to relieving? Not our call.

Further, who’s to say that all of the “solids” break camp healthy? Any of them — after being abused in 2007 — could easily come up with tendinitis or something during spring training. Finally, are we truly happy with the skills offered by Mota and Schoeneweis?

I don’t think it’s out of the question to bring 25-30 potential relievers into spring training. Doing that, though, will require that the Mets acquire at least 10-15 pitchers between now and February. My guess is that Omar and co. will be scouring the minor league free agents as much as the MLB FAs, as they’ll be much cheaper. Not sure when that list is released, I believe it’s in early November. When it does become available, we’ll give it a thorough review.

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. Micalpalyn October 18, 2007 at 6:23 pm
    In Sept 2006 humber debuted for the Mets throwing a spectacular inning against the Braves.

    Immediately I saw him as a bullpen saviour. Had not Heilman already transitioned? also one hot prospect namely Brandon McCarthy was in the bullpen for the CWS, many, many others had first pitched in relief before assuming starting roles.
    Once again my petition is for Humber to be a reliever for one yr.

    i understand that MANY never go back to starter: aguilera, tapani(?), dotel,
    heilman(?), papelbon(?) but i think the Mets need him more as a reliever than starter next year.

  2. isuzudude October 18, 2007 at 6:37 pm
    Semi-related topic: Joe Torre is officially done as manager of the Yankees. That could play a role in what Mariano decides to do this offseason, and I’m sure the Mets will be waiting (with a multi-year contract) with open arms.
  3. Micalpalyn October 18, 2007 at 6:38 pm
    2. Yes: The above is a prelude to my next point………

    Humber, Collazzo, Muniz………..would Willie use them?

    We have already seen he will use Sosa, Sho, Mota for TWO innings rather than give the bhe ball to the likes of Collazzo

    B. Drum Role ……………….The genius of this blog has been expounded. Are we the only Mets blog to have explored the possiblity of a non-return of Torre to the bombs?…Now He is FA and the dominoes WE explored shall start to fall…..

    Hail to the Hot Stove.

  4. joe October 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm
    1. Willie MUST change his mindset re: young arms such as Collazo, Humber, Muniz, etc.

    2. I’m working on a Torre thing now …

  5. skibolton October 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm
    I do think that omar sees this and is moving in the correct direction. While he got grilled for moving bell, lindstrom, and ring, and bannister this year, I do think he did so with the correct intentions. In all of the trades he made we got younger, while picking up arms with options left that we can store in the minors.
    You also can look at the draft the last several years, and with guys like smith, clyne, raustich, and kuntz we are definately moving in that direction. Many of the teams making all of these moves are doing so with several players with option years left. Only two of our 7 opening day bullpen players had any options remaining, and one needed to be optioned to make room for mota after 50 games. The mets had very few injuries to the bullpen, and were handcuffed by this. They couldn’t option anybody without losing them to another team (while still paying the contract they gave them).
    The solution may be not to go after experienced pen guys and leave two to thre spot to 0-3 guys so that you can move them up and down as often as you want. Watching the way Omar drafts, I really believe that is the direction he is heading.
  6. joe October 18, 2007 at 8:14 pm
    Good points on the groundwork being done by Omar … you’re right, they’re definitely drafting and stockpiling younger arms for the future. I guess the problem is that the future is now and the Mets need to get really creative to plug the leaks while the youngsters develop.

    Also good points on the options issue, which many fans glaze over. It’s not like you can send Schoeneweis to the minors without repercussions. Which is why I like the idea of getting some minor league FAs who can shuttle back and forth a la Heath Bell ’06.

    It’s ironic you suggest leaving 2-3 spots open for dynamism, as that is one of the points of an article scheduled to be published around 5am tomorrow morning.

    Finally, have to agree with you on the bell/lindstrom/bannister/etc. deals of last winter. At the time of those deals, they made perfect sense in getting younger. Being the Monday morning quarterback, it’s easy to grill Omar now for those deals. But I don’t think many MLB execs expected relief pitching to have such an amazing dropoff in reliability and performance (steroids?).

  7. skibolton October 18, 2007 at 9:12 pm
    I’d be curious to watch the trends in performance out of the bullpen the next few years. My major concern is if willie will adapt to the way bullpen usage seems to be headed. I really think the crackdown on steroids is going to put innings eaters at a premium.

    I do like the pen that is going to be available for opening day at citifield, with guys like burgos, padilla, smith, and sanchez still possibly having options. I’d hope omar stays away from guys like linebrink and affeldt, just because we won’t have any roster flexibility. The big plus for counting on sanchez and padilla, besides their options, is having fresh arms available while being able to bring up a pitcher who you think will match up well with your next few series.

    I’d also like to think that we’d offer arbitration to glavine, castillo, castro, loduca, sosa, easley, and even green. With the exception of easley, I think all of these guys would get us at least a sandwich pick (As long as sosa is classified as a reliever), And any of these guys getting one year if they accept wouldn’t really upset me. I really think loduca and easly would be the only two to take it…unless green didn’t care as much about playing time. If glavine goes to atlanta, that should get us the #18 pick in the draft. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have some extra picks this year (ala the sox in 2005…ellsbury, bard, bucholtz) and would certainly help deepen up the farm so that a midseason trade won’t leve the cupboard bare down the line.

  8. joe October 18, 2007 at 10:15 pm
    Have to agree on the Linebrink / Affeldt opinion. One need only look at how The Show/Mota hamstrung the bullpen all season to understand. Why the Mets never turned Show’s leg issue into a DL stint is beyond logic.

    I like the idea of offering arbitration to all those players. How does that work with team options though, such as with Glavine and Green? I remember Glavine waiting until just before arbitration to sign with the Mets, but he was free and clear (no option). If a team rejects the option, can they still offer arbitration?

    In any case, I agree in that I’d be fine with any of those players returning on a one-year deal decided by arbitration. And if not, draft picks are peachy — not to mention making other teams less inclined to sign them.

  9. skibolton October 18, 2007 at 10:28 pm
    I’m pretty sure that the team can offer arbitration any free agent, regardless of options. With the weak market this winter, I’d be surprised to see any of them accept. Even Green, who would probably get around 7 million, wouldn’t upset me on a one year deal. I’m pretty sure glavine, sosa, castillo and loduca will be type a guys, and I’d love to see the mets get something for the guys they let go. Worst case senario is all of them back on a one year deal with no no-trade clause.
  10. joe October 18, 2007 at 11:38 pm
    Agreed.

    Though I’ve been trying to research it, and still not finding anything regarding arbitration in relation to players with contract options. I may have to ask one of my “connected” friends for clarification.

  11. isuzudude October 19, 2007 at 6:22 am
    It doesn’t work that way, guys. You can’t get draft picks for just offering contracts to free agents. If that were the case every team in baseball would offer contracts to every available free agent, with the hopes of the player rejecting the offer just so they can pick up picks from the team that winds up signing them. Also, the only players eligible for arbitration are players who have been in the league between 3 and 6 years and haven’t already been locked up to a long term contract (a la Reyes & Wright). All the info you need can be found here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_transactions

    I happen to disagree with all this draft pick and stock up with minor league arms talk. Although I’m not against the idea, this is a theory designed for a re-building franchise, not the Mets. Sure, it’s shrewd to keep an eye on the future and find a couple diamonds in the rough, but if you look at any team with a strong bullpen, they also had to throw some money into the equation.

    And this talk about the trades last season helped the Mets get younger? HUH? Jon Adkins is 30, Ben Johnson 26. Heath Bell’s 30, Ring is 26. How’d we get younger? The youngest player we got in that deal is Johnson, who at best was supposed to be a backup stopgap in RF for when Milledge got healthy. We did get younger in the Florida trade, but no one seems to care that we got rid of two fire-balling relievers still in their 20s for two soft-tossing lefty spot-starters. Maybe I stand alone, but even when those deals were made, I was left scratching my head…especially knowing our bullpen was going to need as much help as it could get with Bradford and Oliver leaving and Sanchez still hurt.

  12. skibolton October 19, 2007 at 7:53 am
    A team can offer arbitration who ended the season on their roster and does not currently have a contract. The difference between a 3-6 guy and a guy like castillo is that castillo has the right to turn it down and test free agency, whereas the 3-6 guy is still under the teams control. The getting younger point dealt with owens lindstrom, and bannister (28,27,26), for three guys 23 or younger.
  13. joe October 19, 2007 at 8:15 am
    First … skibolton is right about the arbitration thing. You may have forgotten that longtime veterans such as Barry Bonds could have been offered arbitration last year, and in fact Tom Glavine’s hemming and hawing of last year could have affected whether the Mets received a 1st round draft pick — he got pretty darn close to the arbitration filing deadline before deciding he’d stay with the Mets.

    Secondly, from where I stood last winter: yes, I liked the idea of keeping Owens, Lindstrom, Bell, and Ring. At the same time, Willie made it abundantly, crystal clear that none of those pitchers would ever pitch under his watch. So if they were going to languish in AAA, it made sense to trade them all away for someone who could help in 2-3 years — perhaps when a new manager was in place.

    Hindsight is 20-20 and yeah, all those deals look pretty dumb now. At the time of the deals, though, I understood the logic. I may not have liked the deals, but considering the thought process involved (Willie no like the kiddies), they made sense.

    As for stocking up draft picks … are you serious? Getting some extra draft picks in the first two rounds is not “rebuilding”. It’s “good business sense”. We’re at a point today where college pitchers are in the big leagues within two years (or sooner), so having extra picks is extremely helpful — even to the Evil Empire, who is NEVER in rebuilding mode. Ryan Zimmerman, Joba Chamberlain, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Troy Tulowitzki, Cameron Maybin, Jacob Ellsbury, Jeff Clement, and Matt Garza were all drafted within the last three years, and all MLB-ready right now. But other than getting Mike Pelfrey in 2005, the Mets didn’t have a pick until after the first round was over.

    To counter that, they make have to make creative under-the-radar draft picks (Joe Smith, Kevin Mulvey), and sign 16-year-olds (Deolis Guerra, FMart, F.Pena, etc.). What do you think is more like “rebuilding” — drafting near-ready college players in high rounds, or signing kids not old enough to drive?

  14. isuzudude October 19, 2007 at 9:34 am
    OK, I see I’m not in the club here. Joe, you and skibolton (who conveniently seems to post right around the same time you post) can hold hands and agree on every possible issue under the sun. But I know for a fact, and the article attached to my link backs me up, that arbitration is not an option for all free agents. Perhaps draft picks change hands if a free agent is signed away from his previous ballclub within a certain time frame, but a guy like Tom Glavine IS NOT arbitration eligible. But go ahead and disgaree, because for some reason you tend to think I’m always wrong.

    As far as stock piling on draft picks…like I said, I’m not against the idea. But you cannot build a successful team FOR THE NOW by only worrying about stocking draft picks and not signing available free agents for the bullpen. Are you telling me it’s a wiser idea for 2008 to go with a conglomeration of Collazo/Muniz/McNab/Camacho/etc than sign a Mariano Rivera because you don’t want to lose a draft pick? Give me a break. That’s thinking like the Royals. There’s no doubt Rivera will help the team in ’08, and for how ever many years he is signed for. A draft pick is nothing more than a crap shoot. You may get someone good, you may get a bum. I’d rather the guarenteed talent than the draft pick ANYDAY. But again, go ahead and disagree. And then when the Mets go into the season with a bunch of question marks in the bullpen because they wanted to save draft picks, don’t go making posts that Omar sucks for failing to improve the bullpen when the Mets have another cast of losers in ’08.

  15. skibolton October 19, 2007 at 9:44 am
    isuzudude…check out http://WWW.boosanta.com It provides some pretty good insight on the arbitration system, as well as the history of free agency
  16. skibolton October 19, 2007 at 9:51 am
  17. joe October 19, 2007 at 10:22 am
    isuzudude, what’s with the conspiracy theory cropping up again? skibolton just joined yesterday out of the blue and there is no “club”. We’re all just trying to get the facts straight here, and the way I understand it, if you lose a Type A free agent, you get a draft pick. All you have to do is look at last year’s draft here:

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/news/263869.html

    Make sure you scroll all the way down to see how and why teams received supplemental picks. For example, the Mets had supplemental picks only because they lost Roberto Hernandez and ChadBrad.

    I don’t think anyone suggested that the Mets have a strategy of not looking to sign a free agent and instead build the team with draft picks. Rather, it was suggested that ALL of the current Mets about to file for free agency should be offered arbritration — that way, if they decline the offer and continue on with free agency, at least the Mets will get something in return.

    Sometimes a team doesn’t want to offer arbitration, because you don’t want to get stuck with a salary that you think is too high (it’s up to the arbitrator what the salary will be). For example it’s possible Shawn Green gets awarded a $7M salary for ’07 — that’s probably too high.