November 26, 2007
Non-Roster Disco!

[Editor’s note: From time-to-time, the MetsGeek editors may come across a particularly poignant or informative user journal. When that happens, the journal will be highlighted via a promotion to the site’s main page. Today, we’d like to present this journal written by user Chris in GA. Enjoy!]

When Omar Minaya took over our Mets franchise in September of 2004, we had a lot of large holes. That offseason, Minaya tried to fix some of the holes. He brought in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. He changed the outlook of the Mets future with those specific moves and will always be seen as the most significant moves of that offseason. However, these were not the moves that made Omar, in my mind, a genius. It was how Omar filled the holes in the bullpen and bench. He didn’t do it the conventional way; he signed players that others never really wanted or guys who were past their useful years. His bench reclamation project was golden. He was able to pick up and receive solid contributions from guys like Marlon Anderson, Ramon Castro and Chris Woodward during the course of the regular season. The bullpen construction wasn’t so easy.

He brought the following players into spring training to compete for bullpen spots (2005 regular season Mets stats in parentheses):

Todd Van Poppel (DNP)
Grant Roberts (DNP)
Scott Strickland (DNP)
Mike Mathews (1-0, 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 2.60 WHIP)
Jose Santiago (0-0, 5.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 2.12 WHIP)
Juan Padilla (3-1, 1 SV, 36 IP, 1.49 ERA, 1.02 WHIP)
Joe Nelson (DNP)
Roberto Hernandez (8-6, 4 SV, 69.2IP, 2.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
Orber Moreno (DNP)
Scott Stewart (DNP)
Manny Aybar (0-0, 25.1 IP, 6.04 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Tim Hamulak (0-0, 2.1 IP, 23.14 ERA, 3.43 WHIP)
David Lee (DNP)
Blake McGinley (DNP)

I omitted Royce Ring’s name since he was never in big league camp, despite pitching in a lot of late spring training games. I also omitted Joey Hamilton since he was released faster than the Mets lost a lead with Guillermo Mota on the mound. Mike Mathews, Roberto Hernandez, and Manny Aybar made the team out of Spring Training, joining Felix Heredia, Braden Looper, Dae Sung Koo, and Mike DeJean in the Opening Day bullpen. Of the guys who did not see action for the Mets in 2005, one retired (Van Poppel), three were damaged (Strickland, Moreno, and Roberts) and the others just stunk. Of the group of players who were non-roster invitees, the Mets got something good out of three of them. Tim Hamulak did so well in Triple-A that the Mets packaged him with Jae Seo to acquire Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. Roberto Hernandez and Juan Padilla, along with converted super-good-starter-to-the-stars Aaron Heilman, formed a very good late-inning ‘pen by August of that year.

Going into 2006, the Mets brought in another group of relievers. They signed Chad Bradford to a one-year major league deal, brought in Jorge Julio via a trade from Baltimore, and signed future steroid user and popular Norfolk staple Yusaku Iriki, who Willie liked because he brought the funk. Of course, when they also traded for Duaner Sanchez, who I mentioned above, this pen became great, on paper. They also brought in another extensive list of non-roster invitees that competed for bullpen spots (2006 regular season stats in parentheses).

Jose Santiago (DNP)
Jeremi (AKA Geremi) Gonzalez (0-0, 7.71 ERA, 1.93 WHIP)
Darren Oliver (4-1, 81 IP, 3.44 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
Rafael Cova (DNP)
Pedro Feliciano (7-2, 60.1 IP, 2.09 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
Jeremy Hill (DNP)
Tim Lavigne (DNP)
Dae-Sung Koo (DNP)
Jose Parra (DNP)
Matt Perisho (DNP)
Josh Scobie (DNP)
Mike Venafro (DNP)
Jose Lima (0-4, 17.1 IP, 9.87 ERA, 2.02 WHIP)

Only Darren Oliver made the opening day roster from that group. Minaya had a handshake agreement with Pedro Feliciano to bring him up two weeks into the season. Originally, it was going to be Feliciano over Oliver; however, question marks concerning the health of the starting pitching caused the Mets to carry Oliver over Feliciano. Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez (Now known as Geremi) were the only other non-roster invitees to see time on a New York Mets’ mound. Both have become ongoing jokes here at MetsGeek. The Mets ended up with one of the best bullpens in baseball, largely due to the contributions of Oliver and Feliciano. Former non-roster invitee Juan Padilla went down during spring training with an arm injury and has not pitched in the majors since, while Roberto Hernandez signed a deal to become a Pirate, later to return in a trade-deadline deal.

2007 saw the Mets bring in only a handful of non-roster invitees. Here is the much smaller list of non-roster invitees that competed for bullpen spots (2007 regular season stats in perentheses):

Aaron Sele (3-2, 53.2 IP, 5.37 ERA, 1.84 WHIP)
Joe Smith (3-2, 44.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 1.56 WHIP)
Willie Collazo (0-0, 5.2 IP, 6.35 ERA, 2.12 WHIP)
Kevin Mulvey (DNP)
Eddie Camacho (DNP)
Derek Lee (DNP)
Clint Nageotte (DNP)
Lino Urdaneta (0-0, 1 IP, 9.00ERA, 2.00 WHIP)
Jorge Vazquez (DNP)

Besides Aaron Sele, Jorge Vazquez, Clint Nageotte and Derek Lee, the pitchers with invites were already Met farmhands. Sele and Joe Smith made the major league roster out of spring training, but, unlike previous years, no one was able to make a season-long impact. Smith had a great start but faded fast. Aaron Sele had one of the worst WHIP’s in baseball of anyone who logged over 50 innings. There were not as many holes in the pen as in previous seasons, yet it still became a disaster despite the solid work of super starter Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, and closer Billy Wagner.

The 2008 Mets pen looks to have many holes right now. Besides the three pitchers mentioned at the end of the last paragraph, there are a plethora of question marks. Can Sanchez and Padilla return from major injuries that have sidelined both pitchers for more than a year-and-a-half? Can Smith make adjustments, and can Scott Schoeneweis finally put together some productive performances? What can we expect out of Carlos Muniz? I think that it is time for Omar to bring another extensive group of non-roster invitees from throughout baseball. Here are five guys I’d recommend taking a look at. This is not really a science, just a guess at guys who might be able to turn around their careers given a chance.

1. Zach Day: Once a promising starter, Day has fallen hard after a string of arm injuries. When healthy, opposing hitters have been unable to lift his pitches. He had an unspectacular year in Omaha of the Pacific Coast League, where his strikeout rate fell dramatically. His WHIP was high at 1.64 (because of unusually bad control), but his ERA was low–3.93 in a hitters’ league. His homerun rate was .49 per nine innings, which is remarkable in the bandboxes of the PCL. If he is able to regain his command, he is a perfect guy to use in a situation requiring a double play, similar to how the Mets used Chad Bradford in 2006.

2. Joe Nelson: Yes, the same invitee from 2005. Joe missed the 2007 season with injury. A hard throwing reliever, Joe posted a 1.37 WHIP for the Kansas City Royals in 2006 and even saw some time as the closer. He is very injury-prone but he still has great peripheral numbers, wherever he goes.

3. Marc Kroon: A former Mets farmhand has taken Japan by storm, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. He has great peripherals, doesn’t give up homeruns and seems to have finally figured out the strike zone. He had a 2-5 record for Yokohama with 27 saves and a .96 WHIP in 2006. The 34-year-old Kroon earned a career-high 31 saves this past season.

4. Lance Carter: Like Kroon, the 2003 All-Star pitched in Japan last year, but his season never seemed to get started. He was hit in the chin by a batted ball, missed some time, and watched his role get sucked up by other pitchers. The only hope is that he might capture some of his past glory, which wasn’t much. He was dependable at best.

5. Chin-Hui Tsao: Tsao cannot stay healthy. In Los Angeles’s pen, Tsao posted a 1.05 WHIP over 24.2 innings last year. He’s a former starter with the potential to become a good reliever if he can stay healthy for a year.

3 Responses to “Non-Roster Disco!”

  1. Comment posted by aussieyankee on November 26, 2007 at 1:28 am (#565167)

    How about Billy Traber, Mike Maroth, Randy Keisler, Seth McClung, Ryan Wagner, Louis Ayala, Joey Eischen, Keith Foulke, or Koji Uheara, name to the list, although he’s probably a non-non-roster invite: Troy Percival. He seems to have been lights out for the Cards last year.

  2. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on November 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm (#565632)

    Good job Chris , some of those names were forgotten already. I don’t see Omar going big for Santana or Haren so he will definitely be bringing in a bunch of arms to throw against the wall to see what sticks. lets hope what he finds turns out better then 2007.

  3. Gravatar
  4. Comment posted by Chris in GA on November 26, 2007 at 8:02 pm (#565713)

    Thanks for no selling my *promoted* journal Wood.