In each of Sandy Alderson’s previous three winters with the New York Mets, he listed building the bullpen as a priority. It will be the same this winter as well.
Horrendous in the first half of last season, the Mets’ bullpen stabilized into respectability in the second half of the season to finish with a 3.98 ERA.
Unlike previous seasons when Alderson’s bullpen needed a complete overall, the Mets already have several slots filled, but still need to improve their overall depth.
“We need to have more quality arms in the bullpen,’’ Alderson said. “We never had a real strong bottom half of the bullpen. The key will be to have more arms, quality arms out there that we can rely on.’’
Frank Francisco was a bust as the closer, but in his place Bobby Parnell emerged as reliable in that role. However, he lost a considerable amount of weight following surgery to repair a herniated disk. Assuming Parnell returns for the start of the season, the Mets’ pen could also feature LaTroy Hawkins – as a reliable set-up reliever – Vic Black, lefty specialist Scott Rice, long man Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen.
Black was acquired in the deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. He throws in the high 90s and will likely get a chance at the closer role if Parnell isn’t ready and Hawkins, who is a free agent, isn’t brought back.
In previous seasons the Mets had to search for six or seven arms. As of now, they could already have six and are merely looking for depth. Their lack of depth was exposed when after Parnell was injured and Torres was temporarily moved to the rotation.
Rice (pictured) and Hawkins were two feel-good stories. After spending 14 years in the minor leagues, Rice finally got his chance to play in the major leagues and appeared in 73 games. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Hawkins still touched the radar gun at 95 mph., and when Parnell was injured, he took over the closer role and saved 13 games with a 2.93 ERA.
Germen emerged as a power arm and Torres was valuable as a combination long-man, spot-starter and situational reliever. Torres’ versatility is something the Mets’ bullpen hadn’t had since Darren Oliver in 2006.
Previously, the Mets would piece together their bullpen, but this time most of their heavy lifting has already been completed. Of course, with Matt Harvey gone for 2014, their pen stands to be taxed.