There was a point in time, eons ago (actually, about a month ago) when everyone in the world of Mets fans, mostly the blogosphere was going ballistic at the Mets handling of the Nelson Figueroa situation. It was seen as a slap in the face to the man, but statistically as well as from the standpoint of improving the team I will analyze it in 3 points, and address his “successor”.
It Was POORLY Handled.
The Mets had been throwing him around for years, telling him he was the long reliever, then the 7th inning man, then a starter, then demoted. Certain players will always have a certain kind of makeup, and what was one of the more amazing things was Nelson Figueroa was a pitcher, who use his intelligence and pitched to contact when he knew it would help the team. Without generalizing opinions, more people were probably upset at the fact that they released a guy who had some success as a Met and felt the rotation lacked any depth, which it still doesn’t really.
He Isn’t THAT Good
As a starter, Figueroa can do all of the things he needs to do – adequately. His projection, at 35 is no upside and only decline. If he was the Mets 5th starter, the world would be on fire as to “Why isn’t Dillon Gee up? What about Hisanori Takahashi starting?” Adequate players do find homes in other organizations, but on this Mets team that is built for winning hopefully NOW, the 5th starter will either have to be homegrown or…uhm…worth $12 Million…*cough*Ollie*cough*. For the record, on the year Nelson Figueroa has a 4.30 ERA, 8 strikeouts, 7 walks and 14 hits in 14 2/3 innings including 1 start.
He Wouldn’t Have Gone To AAA
Well documented, if Figgy was designated for assignment, he would not accept it. He would’ve much rather signed in Japan or elsewhere. Being locked into a player who must stay on our roster or he would leave is more a detriment to the team. With all the injuries the Mets had last year, having roster mobility (the ability to move people between AAA and MLB) is essential. The Mets only have one reliever on the roster not named K.Rod, Manny Acosta or Feliciano without minor league options (see: Parnell, Bobby – Green, Sean). This flexibility allows the Mets to make moves based on need, not requirement.
The New Nelson Figueroa…
On this one, I wanted to say it was a clear cut guy – but from a different aspect we gained two pitchers who both can do what Nelson Figueroa does and they are…
The man with the rubber arm, Fernando Nieve. He has struck out 14 in 16 innings. he’s appeared in roughly half of the Mets games this season in different innings, different situations and whenever Jerry Manuel has called him. Nieve was in the competition, and if we would’ve kept Figueroa we would’ve lost a good reason why our bullpen has been one of the best in the NL. Fernando has a 2.81 ERA, over nearly the same span as Nelson and his peripherals across the board lean towards Nieve being substantially better
Hisanori Takahashi faced demotion if Figueroa made the team. What he has provided the Mets with is beyond admirable, as he has essentially piggybacked the Mets starters when they were unable to gut it out through outing. Despite his 4.02 ERA and 10 walks, which were a surprise since he was touted as a control pitcher – the man has struck out 22 batters in 15 2/3 innings. Takahashi has struck out 3 or more in 4 of his 9 outings. He’s essentially the long man for the Mets, and his upside is high-k’s and hopefully his walk rate returns to earth
Although Nelson Figueroa is a great story and a great guy overall, the Mets don’t need adequacy if they want to win. They need good starts, and a solid bullpen. Plus, of all the loyalty and such that was spoken of Figueroa – at the end of the day, he became a Philadelphia Phillie – this is a job, not a fraternity. When work opens up, you take it. The Mets found better employees to handle a job they haven’t handled well since 2007.