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)
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.