As the long Hot Stove season winds down and the winter transforms into spring, the Mets are seemingly finished with their off season makeover.
The Mets first priority was to overhaul a bullpen that was overworked, ineffective, and had become the object of most Mets fans ire.
Gone are Aaron Heilman and his lefthanded counterpart Scott Schoeneweis, and in a surprising move, young Joe Smith was banished as well. Heilman definitely needed a change of scenery, and I had such high hopes for side-armer Joe Smith, but that pales in comparison to the addition of J.J. Putz and what he will mean to our bullpen in 2009.
Schoeneweis, on the other hand, is a little different. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t kept and used solely as our weapon against left handed hitters. In that regard, he was one of the best in the league. Now the Mets will be paying him $1.6 million dollars to be a lefty specialist for another team. It’s a role he was born for, and one that the Mets ever really considered during his tenure with us.
Let bygones, be bygones.
This wonderful transformation that was architected by Omar Minaya, has made the Mets’ bullpen the best in the division if not the entire league. Almost.
With Francisco Rodriguez and Putz handling all of the end game responsibilities, the Mets have shortened the game to seven innings.
Duaner Sanchez, Sean Green, Pedro Feliciano and possibly Brian Stokes will each find key roles in the back of the bullpen.
It leaves the Mets with just Feliciano as the lone lefthander. Could the Mets get by with just one lefthander in the bullpen?
Probably, but if you already went this far in revamping last seasons heartbreaking pen into a hope inspiring bullpen that oozes with potential, why take any chances?
Why not finish the job?
There are several interesting options still available in this sagging free agent market. and two of them could be ideal fits for the Mets; Tyler Johnson and Ron Villone, however I believe Johnson might be a better fit for the Mets.
Johnson is young and still improving, and though he may not have the resume of Ron Villone, he makes up for it with promising upside. Tyler had shoulder surgery in 2007 and missed the 2008 season. He was due for arbitration and the Cardinals non-tendered him thus making him a free agent.
In 2007, left handers hit just .224 against the 27-year old southpaw, but he also held right handers to an even stingier .211.
Today, Johnson says he feels great and he was glad he decided to have the surgery. A few months ago he said the following to reporters.
“I want to get back into game-mode situations, and be ready to have a good year next year. I am having a year-round season this year. I’m going to do stuff all year long and I’m really going to get ready for the season. I’m going to have a great year. This is the first surgery I’ve ever had, and I was pretty terrified about it. But the outcome really makes me feel a lot better.”
If we signed Johnson, he would be able to take over as the Mets setup man after J.J. Putz moves on. The Mets are not going to pay their setup man in excess of $10 million dollars, so having a guy like Johnson around makes sense for more than one reason. He would come cheap, and wouldn’t cost the Mets a draft pick like some of the other options would.
Johnson is a former longtime top ten prospect for the Cardinals, with a very live arm. He could be a great high risk/high reward type player, except that it wouldn’t be that much of a risk.