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December 30, 2008
  
Adding Another Lefty?

The Mets bullpen has been transformed from a weakness into a strength heading into the 2009 season. There will likely be seven relievers in the bullpen, and it appears six of these spots are filled:

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP
J.J. Putz, RHP
Pedro Feliciano, LHP
Sean Green, RHP
Brian Stokes, RHP
Duaner Sanchez, RHP

I think Omar Minaya should add another lefty to this group. Feliciano is a LOOGY, and it would be nice to have a solid insurance policy should he be ineffective or get hurt. Fans of Bobby Parnell and Eddie Kunz need not worry. When the inevitable injuries hit the pitching staff, these two will get a shot. Following the trade of Scott Schoeneweis, it does not make sense to acquire another LOOGY. Schoeneweis could have filled that role just fine. Therefore, it is preferable to find someone who is strong vs. lefties but can also get out righties. Let’s take a look at options both within and outside the organization:

Within the Organization

Michael Antonini, age 23
Adam Bostick, age 26

There are slim pickings in the minor leagues to fill the lefty need. Antonini is not major league ready, but was #17 on John Sickels’s list of the top 20 Mets prospects. He’s worked almost exclusively as a starter in the minors and has a solid career K/BB ratio of 3.38. Keep an eye on him for the future. Bostick was acquired from the Marlins in the regrettable Matt Lindstrom trade, and has been ineffective as a starter at the highest levels of the Mets’ minor leagues. He’s coming off a knee injury in 2008 which limited him to just 44.2 innings pitched. Former Met lefty Willie Collazo was signed by the Marlins this offseason.

Free Agents
(Note: I omitted Brian Shouse because he is a 40 year-old LOOGY. I also left out Japanese pitcher Ken Takahashi because he too is 40 and unproven at the American major league level.)

Joe Beimel, age 31
Career vs. RHB: .286/.367/.428
Career vs. LHB: .266/.330/.392
2008 salary: $1.9 million

One stat jumps off the page for Beimel: he has given up just one homerun in the last two seasons, spanning 116.1 IP. This is probably unsustainable, given his career HR/FB% of 7.3%. Compare to 2007 and 2008 when it was 1.4% and 0.0%, respectively. Couple this with his underwhelming GB%, and I think Beimel will regress in the coming seasons. In 2008 he was better than usual against righties, sporting a .700 OPS against. So he’s got that going for him. Beimel does not strike out a lot of batters (career 5.05 K/9) and walks his fair share (career 3.88 BB/9). However, it cannot be denied that he’s been a reliable reliever since 2006.

Will Ohman, age 31
Career vs. RHB: .262/.359/.397
Career vs. LHB: .197/.285/.318
2008 salary: $1.6 million

Ohman had a career year in 2008, posting his best single season FIP, K/BB, and HR/9. His 2008 FIP+ of 141 was better than anyone on this list except Brian Fuentes. One alarming stat was his LD% of 28.6%. This is shockingly bad, but much higher than his career LD% of 21.8% Like Beimel, he was strong in ’08 vs. righties: they hit .256/.341/.359 against him.

Dennys Reyes, age 31
Career vs. RHB: .282/.376/.434
Career vs. LHB: .237/.330/.340
2008 salary: $1 million

Born on the exact same day as Beimel, Reyes had his best season in 2006 (50.2 IP, 0.89 ERA, 3.27 K/BB). He had a miserable 2007 season, but rebounded nicely in 2008. Reyes is a fastball-slider pitcher who can hit 90 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. He keeps the ball on the ground and has a respectable career HR/9 of 0.79. However, the Citi Field faithful may not have the patience for Reyes’s control problems (career 4.96 BB/9).

Brian Fuentes, age 33
Career vs. RHB: .225/.320/.370
Career vs. LHB: .215/.309/.325
2008 salary: $5 million

This isn’t a realistic option but just think how lights-out the Mets ‘pen would be if he signed. J.J. Putz to Fuentes to Francisco Rodriguez: wow. Fuentes posted a FIP+ of 208 in 2008, better than Putz (113) or Rodriguez (136).

Recommendation

No pitcher in the Mets organization is ready to assume a role in the bullpen. Imagine a scenario where Feliciano gets injured and the likes of Bostick is forced into a lefty relief role? Frightening. Reyes is too much of a LOOGY to make any sense. He would be Schoeneweis, part deux. I like Ohman and Beimel, in that order. Ohman is more effective vs. righties and arguably better vs. lefties as well. I also believe that Beimel is more highly regarded than Ohman for whatever reason, meaning Ohman could cost less to acquire. The Giants’ signing of Jeremy Affeldt for two years, $8 million set the bar for lefty relievers (this was covered nicely by Mike Newman). I consider Affeldt slightly superior to the realistic free agent choices, so perhaps Ohman or Beimel could be had for two or three years and $2-3 million per.

Feel free to suggest other options that I haven’t covered here.


17 Responses to “Adding Another Lefty?”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on December 30, 2008 at 1:48 am (#913541)

    I think that the health issues of Sanchez and the general small sample size issues on Stokes make it a little less important to worry about getting a specific kind of middle-reliever and more about… getting more decent middle relievers in general.

    At this point, I’d rather get one more above-average rightie than get a dude who’s great against lefties and is useless otherwise.

    Good middle-relievers can get guys out from both sides of the plate in a pinch. Rely too hard on match-ups and you wear out your bullpen and/or find yourself in situations where all you have left are dudes pitching outside of their strengths.

    Still.

    I think that getting a #3 starter, a #5 starter and an actual factual secondbaseman are still more important worries, at this point.

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  3. Comment posted by sean13 on December 30, 2008 at 2:28 am (#913543)

    The guy that makes the most sense for the Mets is Eddie Guardado. Yes, he’s 38 and been around the block many, many times, but he’s got closer experience, won’t get rattled in a big game and actually taught JJ Putz his out pitch in Seattle, so he could again mentor the staff. He shouldn’t cost much, certainly less than the others mentioned above and is an available FA.

  4. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 30, 2008 at 3:27 am (#913544)

    James,
    I’m all for playing the market on this one, and taking whoever we can get for the fewest years.

    I’d even be happy with Reyes provided we used him as the LOOGY he is (unlike how we used Show).

    I also wouldn’t give up on Fuentes. If it gets to the point where he can be had for 2-3 years at $6-8 mil per, I think we’d have to consider it. It is still possible that the Giants will look like suckers this offseason for giving Affeldt that contract. Look what Joe Nelson just got.

    Takahashi, Shouse and Guardado would all be excellent spring-training invites.

  5. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on December 30, 2008 at 6:29 am (#913546)

    Given the better success by FRod, Putz and Sanchez against both LH and RH hitters, do you think the Mets would consider going with 6 relievers for most of the season, with one more bat off the bench instead?

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  7. Comment posted by AuldLangSyneSince71 on December 30, 2008 at 7:27 am (#913557)

    Given the better success by FRod, Putz and Sanchez against both LH and RH hitters, do you think the Mets would consider going with 6 relievers for most of the season, with one more bat off the bench instead?

    I don’t think so, Dave. Even if we do add Lowe, we’ll still be left with 3 starters (excluding Johan) who won’t go deep into games.
    The Mets will need as many quality relievers as possible to fill out those innings and KRod/Putz/Sanchez shouldn’t be used everyday.

    Plus, Sanchez is still an enigma at this point. We really have no idea what we’ll get from him in 09.

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  9. Comment posted by AuldLangSyneSince71 on December 30, 2008 at 7:31 am (#913560)

    I also wouldn’t give up on Fuentes. If it gets to the point where he can be had for 2-3 years at $6-8 mil per, I think we’d have to consider it

    I agree it’s a pretty good idea, argon, but there’s no way I envision the Mets going that high for Fuentes.
    I think most of the bullpen budget has already been allocated to KRod and Putz.
    So anyone else acquired will be on the cheap.

  10. Comment posted by skyhappysal on December 30, 2008 at 9:16 am (#913574)

    I like this article, especially since you are backing Ohman. I have been an Ohman fan for awhile, I think he would be a perfect fit. There is a very good chance he could end the year as the Mets #2 reliever, yes ahead of Putz even if Putz doesn’t completely rebound to 2007 form.
    I wish you had cautioned Biemel even more though…I think pitching in Chavez Revene helped him out a bit, I hate that batting average against lefties…

  11. Comment posted by JamesSC on December 30, 2008 at 9:48 am (#913581)

    The key to any of these guys would be to make sure it is a 1/2 year deal. Some of these guys mentioned I would have rather had the Show at his remaining 1 year instead of having to try them out for 2 or 3 years instead.

    It will be interesting to see where the market settles, but I think our remaining reliever will be more likely to be a ST invite like Shouse or whoever ends up still hanging around in April/May. Omar may find a deal he likes out there, but I dont see him looking to spend any more significant cash on the pen.

  12. Comment posted by evan_den on December 30, 2008 at 11:43 am (#913666)

    I thought that indications out of the Mets camp were that they are not looking aggressively to pursue a free agent to fill any bullpen vacancies. I have to say that I agree with that strategy, as middle relief pitchers for the most part are so hard to predict from season to season. Better to have a couple of guys that can step into that spot if needed than to throw out a big contract for a guy like Biemel, or the Show, imo.

  13. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on December 30, 2008 at 2:49 pm (#913890)

    Feliciano has been effective against righties his entire career. 2008 seems like an aberration he can probably solve (perhaps by returning to his curveball).

    Nonetheless, another lefty is probably necessary. Perhaps the best route would b to trade Parnell for a good one.

  14. Comment posted by Gina on December 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm (#913964)

    I don’t care if it’s a righty or lefty I just think we need one more guy who can get more than one out. Like Will Ohman for example.

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  16. Comment posted by AuldLangSyneSince71 on December 30, 2008 at 4:19 pm (#913986)

    I’m officially onboard for Ohman, too.

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  18. Comment posted by irish8 on December 30, 2008 at 11:07 pm (#914069)

    I have a strong feeling we will be auditioning several LHP candidates during spring training. Unfortunately, I don’t any of the invitees will be very exciting options.

    Of the free agents still available Ohman is the best option. I just don’t see us spending more money on the bullpen.

    Ideally, I would look for a trade. In particular, I am very big on Renyel Pinto. His perepherial stats were horrible last year (9 HRs and 39 BB in 64 innings), but he has fantastic stuff. I think he has termendous upside if he can learn to throw strikes. We have six spots in the bullpen pretty much locked down, I think we can afford to gamble on somebody like Pinto.

  19. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on December 30, 2008 at 11:47 pm (#914070)

    Throwing strikes is hard to learn. Oliver Perez has had several years, and still can’t quite get it. Why not simply trade Kunz and/or Parnell for a lefty of equal value? Also, if Wagner recovers ahead of schedule (which you obviously can’t count on) it would be a bullpen for the ages.

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  21. Comment posted by irish8 on December 31, 2008 at 1:28 am (#914075)

    While I would argue that Pinto, while wild, already is about league average overall…with the potential of being something special. I’d say he probably does have about equal value to somebody like Parnell.

  22. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on December 31, 2008 at 8:09 pm (#914454)

    I’d do Parnell for Pinto without hesitation, and I’d add a nice bouquet.

  23. Comment posted by mlbgm on January 2, 2009 at 3:36 pm (#914752)

    Why in the world would Omar deal Show, and then spend that money to acquire someone just like him? The lesson the Mets learned last year was that, especially in the NL, you have to have relievers who can get both lefties and righties out. At the most, you can have one lefty and one righty specialist - which the Mets already have. No one still on the market has a career OPS split that is less than 150 points of each other.
    The guys on the market are no better than what we already have - save the money to put it to use on what we really need.

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