This slow offseason has made the Baseball Network virtually unwatchable, but I was channel surfing the other day and stumbled on and then stuck with their Top Games of 2016 segment.
#9 on the list was a midsummer clash between the Cubs and Mariners that included an awkward-looking catch in leftfield by a Cubs reliever, whom manager Joe Maddon inserted there when the game seemed like a blowout loss. That “blowout loss” was later transformed into a Cubs win, which is the real reason the game was featured on the show.
The less than nimble relief pitcher turned outfielder was one Travis Wood, who is currently (a) left handed and (b) an unsigned free agent. While statistically current/former Met Jerry Blevins is a better performer, I believe that Wood fits the profile of the kind of player that GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins like to target.
From the GM perspective, Wood can fill more than one role. He has 133 career starts, although none since the nine he started in 2015. His transformation to the bullpen began that year, as Maddon inserted him into 46 other games as a reliever. The results were mixed: his K/9 rate rose and his WHIP declined, but his BB/9 jumped by nearly a full walk per nine innings. In 2016 he appeared in a whopping 77 games (Terry’s kinda guy), his K/9 and WHIP ratios stayed the same, however so did his BB/9. He was a better “late and close” pitcher in 2016 than in less high-leverage situations, which is a good sign.
The Mets have claimed to have faith in the Joshes (Smoker and Edgin) to fill the lefty roles in the pen. They are penciling in another lefty, Steven Matz into their rotation. Edgin and Matz are definite injury concerns and Smoker, although showing flashes of brilliance at times down the stretch in 2016, is untested and had a earlier promising career derailed by injuries. Wood might be able to start the season in the pen, perhaps co-handling the 8th inning with someone like Hansel Robles until the expected suspension of Jeurys Familia ends. From there he could be available to “swing,” moving into the rotation if perhaps Matz can’t go, or sticking to the pen if the rotation stays healthy the whole year (yeah, right). He doesn’t really block Edgin or Smoker if either proves to be effective beyond a cameo role or two.
Former Met GM Steve Phillips once coined the phrase “payroll flexibility.” Alderson and Collins seem somewhat hooked on a lineup flexibility and the 2017 Mets appear to be constructed around players that can handle multiple roles, especially off the bench. Travis Wood represents another example of that type of player, should the Mets be interested.
Plus, they could probably get him cheap.