Tag: david aardsma

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.

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Last Year’s Scrap Heap

Last winter we regularly combed through the scrap heap in search of possible nuggets for the Mets to consider. Strangely enough, few if any of our recommendations were acted upon by the Mets. Is it possible that Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard do NOT read this blog? Crazy thought, I know.

Anyway, the recent signing of Jody Gerut to a one-year, $1.775M contract by the Padres reminded me that he was one of players we discussed here prior to the opening of 2008 spring training.

Specifically:

Padres sign OF Jody Gerut to a minor league contract.
This doesn’t really mean much to Mets fans, since Gerut is a lefthanded hitting outfielder — and we already have Endy for that role. But it’s intriguing to me anyway. Gerut finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2003, when he hit 33 doubles, 22 homers, drove in 75 runs, and batted .280 in only 127 games for the Indians. Then he fell off the planet due to knee injuries, and hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since 2005. However, he’s tearing up the Venezuelan league this winter, to the tune of .390 with 80 total bases in 40 games. It appears he’s healthy, and motivated to win a job somewhere. The Padres might have a find in this guy.

In that same article from late last January, we also liked Sean Burnett, David Aardsma, Jeremy Affeldt, Octavio Dotel, Franklyn German, and Mike Myers. OK, we missed on Myers, but the other five enjoyed mixed success. Let’s review each of them.

Sean Burnett
What was said in January:

… while researching Gerut, I noticed that former #1 pick Sean Burnett had a 2.45 ERA in Venezuela. Burnett looked promising in a short trial as a 21-year-old in 2004, then succumbed to elbow issues and Tommy John surgery, which eliminated him from competition for all of 2005 and part of ’06. It appears he’s now healthy, and was never a flamethrower — more a control guy with a hard sinker. If his velocity is near the 88-90 range, he has the control and guile to be a solid #4 at the MLB level. He’s still on the Pirates’ 40-man, and it might be interesting to watch his progress. If he cracks the 25-man roster, who knows — he might be trade bait come July.

What happened in 2008:
Burnett did make the Pirates’ 25-man roster and appeared in 58 games, posting a 4.76 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Not great by any means, but he held LH hitters to a .171 batting average, .238 OBP, and .271 SLG. Add in he’s only 25 years old and still recovering from his elbow issues — and still very cheap — and suddenly he’s a bargain LOOGY with some upside.

David Aardsma

What was said in January:

Aardsma was a 2003 #1 pick after becoming Rice U’s all-time career saves leader. He was rushed to the bigs by the Giants, was knocked back down quickly, and bounced to the Cubs and White Sox in the past two years. Personally, I think this kid has great potential, but needs to stay in one place long enough to build his confidence and prove his worth. He just turned 26 years old, and could be one of those guys who could blossom all at once and “come out of nowhere” — a la Cla Meredith or Tony Pena — to become a valuable middle reliever. After Aardsma was DFA’d, a part of me hoped the Mets’ brass was on the case, but the BoSox moved quickly in acquiring him for two non-prospects. I think he could have been a nice addition to the bullpen depth — particularly since he still has options.

What happened in 2008:
Aardsma played a fairly important role eating up innings out of the Bosox bullpen, appearing in 47 games and striking out 49 batters in 48 IP. He walked 35, though, and posted a 5.55 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. Before you scoff at those numbers, however, check out what he did outside of Fenway Park — 23 IP, 15 H, 19 K, 13 BB, 2.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. That walk rate is still high, but this is clearly a guy who had troubles pitching with the Green Monster at his back. Away from Boston, Aardsma had numbers comparable to Juan Cruz.

Jeremy Affeldt
What was said in January:

… had he not been offered a spot in the Reds’ rotation, he might have been a nice fit in the old Darren Oliver role.

What happened in 2008:
OK, he wasn’t really a “scrap heap” guy, but his strong 2007 in Colorado only earned him a 1-year deal with the Reds. In Cincinnati he had another strong season, which he parlayed into a 2-year, $8M contract with the Giants.

Octavio Dotel
What was said in January:

Yes, I’ve been advocating the acquisition of Dotel all winter. And I still think, even at two years, he would have been worth it. If the Mets were willing to give flash-in-the-pan LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis a three-year deal, I see no logic in failing to offer a two-year deal to Dotel, who has tons more upside and significant experience in both closer and setup roles. Yes, his fragility is a concern, but that’s why he came as cheap as he did …


What happened in 2008:

72 G | 67 IP | 92 K | 52 H | 29 BB | 1.29 WHIP | 3.76 ERA

Like Affeldt, Dotel was hardly a “scrap heap” guy, but teams were shying away due to concerns about his health. The two-year deal given by the ChiSox seemed risky. Well, as you see he appeared in 72 games and had a crazy amount of strikeouts — just the type of “swing and miss guy” the Mets admitted they needed desperately in their 2008 bullpen. The one negative was susceptibility to the gopher ball — he allowed a dozen dingers. Still, how would the Mets’ season have played out if Dotel was one of the relief options?

Franklyn German

What was said in January:

German is a flamethrower who once rated higher than Joel Guzman in the Tigers’ organization. German stands 6’7″, weighs 270 lbs., and hurls the ball in excess of 100 MPH. Why he hasn’t done much is something of a mystery — his strikeout totals in the minors have been insane (career: 531 Ks in 495 IP) but he hasn’t been able to stay on an ML roster. I’ve seen him pitch both in Detroit and in the Dominican League, and can’t figure it out — in the Dominican, he’s been an intimidating, effective closer. He was a free agent this winter and chose to stick with Texas despite spending all of 2007 playing for their AAA team. I would have liked to seen him as one of cans of paint the Mets throw on the wall this spring — a Jorge Julio type that Rick Peterson could have had fun with. But then, I guess that project slot has been filled by Joselo Diaz.

What happened in 2008
As usual, German had trouble getting out of AAA, mainly due to control issues. He did manage to open the season in the bigs and pitch in 17 games with the Rangers, hurling 22 innings, allowing 18 hits, 13 walks, striking out 15 and posting a 2.08 ERA. After a three-inning outing in late May, he was DFA’d, signed by the Pirates, spent the rest of the year in AAA, and then in August was traded to the White Sox for a player to be named later. I’m not certain, but believe a big league club has already invited him to spring training.

Like last winter, we’ll be sifting through the scrap heap in search of hidden gems between now and the opening of spring training 2009. Hopefully Omar and co. are paying attention this time.

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