After seeing the Mets bullpen last year, and really the bullpens assembled by Sandy Alderson during his tenure as the Mets general manager, the team needs to add at least one impact late-inning reliever this free agency. Alderson has acknowledged as much, and the Mets have been linked to a few big-name targets.
In this edition of the MMO Roundtable, our writers name the reliever the Mets should prioritize this offseason:
There are several distinguishing factors that set Bryan Shaw apart from most of the other available arms on the free agent market.
Since 2013, Shaw has appeared in the most games (378) in the majors among relievers, and has made at least 70 appearances the last five seasons. The durability and reliability factors are of major influence when deciding on adding an arm to the back-end of the bullpen, and Shaw easily passes that test.
The velocity on his cutter has increased over the past several seasons, along with steadily increasing over the 2017 season. By September, Shaw’s cutter was averaging close to 96 mph, according to Brooks Baseball.
Along with the uptick in velocity, Shaw has seen a steady increase on his ground ball rate the last several seasons. Shaw posted a 45.8 percent rate in 2015, and followed that up with a 53.7 percent and 55.9 percent rate in 2016 and 2017.
What’s also noteworthy is along with the increase in groundball rate, Shaw has lowered his fly ball rate substantially over that same time frame. In 2015 Shaw posted a 30.5 percent fly ball rate, and in 2017 he posted a 22.1 percent rate, 10th lowest among relievers.
Of course, one can’t discount the familiarity Shaw has with newly minted Mets manager, Mickey Callaway. Their work relationship will go a long way in terms of Callaway knowing when to utilize and pull back the reins on Shaw.
The last factor for signing Shaw would be financial. Many experts have pegged former Met reliever Addison Reed to obtain a four-year deal this winter. With the team’s limited budget, Shaw should come cheaper in free agency, as teams that lose out on a Wade Davis or Greg Holland might look to Reed at closer money.
My first instinct was to go with a familiar face and say Addison Reed should be the highest bullpen priority. When he was with the Mets and Jeurys Familia was healthy, Reed was one of the best setup men in baseball, if not the best.
Then upon deeper thought it occurred to me that Reed has likely earned at least one offer to be a team’s closer which could drive his price range up. After taking age and price into consideration, Bryan Shaw is my choice.
He would be cheaper and likely just as effective. He has also proven he can stay healthy, appearing in at least 64 games every season since 2012 and leading the American League in appearances three times during that span.
While he posted a career-worst 3.52 ERA this season, he posted a career-best 2.96 FIP — a number that should mean much more to you than ERA. He is as consistent as they come and at just 30 years old he is well worth an investment.
Although Bryan Shaw’s name has been bandied about, the Mets should seriously consider signing Tommy Hunter instead. Shaw has posted a WHIP north of 1.20 in each of the last three seasons, while Hunter has a 1.09 WHIP since becoming a full-time reliever in 2013, including a 0.97 WHIP last season.
The Mets’ bullpen as a whole walked 4.3 batters per nine innings in 2017. Hunter has walked 1.9 batters per nine innings since 2013. Hunter’s the guy.
In my opinion, Bryan Shaw should be the Mets main target. While the team has reportedly extended him a multi-year offer, things have been rather quiet.
However, with how durable he has been over the last couple seasons while also being effective, I’d love to see him take that to New York. Plus if Mickey Callaway is as great of a guy as he seems, it wouldn’t surprise me to think that him and Shaw have a good relationship. Maybe that can persuade him to come here.
Under Sandy Alderson’s tenure as general manager, the Mets have struggled when handing out Major League contracts to relievers during the offseason. Pitchers like Fernando Salas, Antonio Bastardo, Brandon Lyon, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco all struggled after being signed in the offseason by the Mets.
New York isn’t the easiest place to play by any stretch of the imagination and relief pitchers are more prone to produce radically different numbers from one season to the next. With that being said, there are two relievers whom the Mets should pursue more than others: Addison Reed and Bryan Shaw.
Out of those two it makes the most sense to sign Shaw. While Reed is familiar with New York and pitched excellent in his time with the Mets, he’ll likely require a larger contract, possibly limiting the Mets from pursuing another piece to their roster. MLB Trade Rumors predicts Reed will eventually land a four-year, $36 million contract while Shaw would garner a three-year, $21 million deal.
Shaw would be a slightly cheaper option and he brings three other qualities with him as well: durability, consistency, and familiarity. Shaw has led the American League in appearances three of the last four years.
His highest single-season ERA of his career was still a respectable 3.52 this past season. Furthermore he has worked directly with Mickey Callaway the past five seasons in Cleveland. All in all, Shaw would likely make a smooth transition to Queens.
If I was the Mets I would prioritize bringing back Addison Reed if I had to choose one reliever. Reed posted a 2.09 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 1.01 WHIP and 9.9 K/9 in parts of three seasons with the Mets and even served as the closer to begin 2017. We’ve also seen that Reed can pitch in New York. I like Bryan Shaw a lot too but his massive usage, MLB leading 442 games over last five seasons, worries me.
Another reason I would decided on Reed is that Jeurys Familia and AJ Ramos are both free agents following the 2018 season meaning the Mets would be looking for a closer. Reed could step in as the closer if they didn’t bring back Familia/Ramos.
In all honesty, the relief pitchers I have heard the Mets connected to in the free agent market all intrigue me so far. However, the guy I want to see them take a chance on is Brandon Morrow.
In his first season full season as a reliever he posted a 2.06 ERA while striking out 50 batters in only 43.2 innings. Another impressive aspect of his stat line was his superb 0.92 WHIP. His velocity is the thing that impressed me though as he led all free agent relievers with a 97.7 MPH average fastball.
While some might attribute this to a fluke season, he did have a 1.69 ERA in 18 appearances with the San Diego Padres in 2016. If the Mets can sign him to a 3-year deal, they should jump at it.
Bryan Shaw is the name to get in my opinion. I like that his velocity, ground ball rate, and FIP have decreased while his workload has still been high.
He knows Callaway and he can be a multiple inning reliever. He also throws a cutter which could help him age better as opposed to someone throwing a straight fastball. I’d recommend the Mets get him soon and start addressing the other needs on the team.
Understandably, most people are looking for a reunion with the next reliever the Mets sign whether that be the return of Addison Reed or uniting Shaw and Callaway in New York. Both would be good choices, but ultimately the Mets should focus on Rondon.
However, with the health issues of Jeurys Familia as well as his impending free agency, Rondon would be a good insurance policy as he was the Cubs closer until the team obtained Wade Davis (also a free agent).
Rondon is coming off his worst year leading to his being non-tendered by the Cubs. The off year was interesting because Rondon has not lost any velocity, and he maintained a high strikeout rate. Looking over the stats, it appears a major factor in his relative struggles was a career-high walk rate. From 2014-2016, Rondon had a 1.9 BB/9. That blew up to a 3.1 BB/9 last year.
Part of this could be attributed to the Cubs having extremely poor pitch framing last season. If that is truly the case, the Mets have Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki slated to do the catching duties next season, both of whom have good pitch framing numbers. Therefore, if Rondon’s problems are truly related to missing that call on the corner, he’s a great bet to bounce back next year.
As an added bonus, with him coming off a weak year, he should come cheaper than a Shaw or Reed, which would give the team more money to address the other holes in the bullpen and the rest of the roster.
By and large, it appears the MMO staff appears to believe Shaw should be the guy. Do you agree with this assessment, or do you believe the Mets should sign someone not mentioned by one of our writers? We look forward to reading your suggestion in the comments.