The Bullpen Fix Can Not Wait

dice-k daisuke matsuzaka

Tuesday night was brutal. Depressing. Infuriating. You name the negative emotion, I likely felt it. You likely did too. The first month of the season was a feel good story. But we were not naive enough to forget our team’s shortcomings. No production from SS, strikeouts from our big free agent signing and for some of you, our manager. Through all of this, we still sit here today with a .500 record at 15-15 through the first week of May thanks to stellar starting pitching that ranks 4th in the NL in quality starts. But it will take much more than quality starts to win games when you have an offense that ranks close to the bottom in most relevant categories. You need quality finishes as well. And our bullpen, as constructed, is not capable of providing that.

The current bullpen has 3 or 4 players which can be counted as ‘reclamation’ projects. Can Jose Valverde close again? Can Kyle Farnsworth close at all? Can Daisuke Matsuzaka even pitch out of the bullpen? Was career minor leaguer Scott Rice‘s 2013 an anomaly? The Mets are operating on a budget, I get that. You need to take a flyer or two on the roster and hope for the best. But 50% of the bullpen? And when one or two struggle, the remaining guys wind up getting overused when the manager loses faith in someone.

No, this can’t continue. Want to kill the psyche of our young arms? Have them pitch 7 innings of shutout baseball and come away with nothing. So what are our options? I see three options that we could implement today, all of which involve replacing¬†Dice-K as he was not signed to be a bullpen guy in the first place and seems uncomfortable in the role (ie- 2 innings to warm up).

1) Recall Vic Black from AAA. We were counting on him in the Spring to be the 8th inning guy and he seems to be in a rhythm lately in Vegas. Given that Black is already accustomed to the bullpen role and it is the least disruptive to the existing system, this is my preferred alternative.

2) Move Jenrry Mejia to the pen, and call up Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom. I am sick of hearing what Mejia ‘wants’. If the organization believes that he is not well suited for a starting role (and this is a big if), then send him to the pen. We’re not dealing with a HOF player here, so I don’t get the sense of entitlement. Management signs your paycheck, do what they ask you to do. Now, throw this option out the window if they still feel he is a top of the rotation kind of guy. My gut tells me, though, that this is not the case.

3) Make a deal. No more flyers. We have depth in the minor leagues. Let’s use it. This is my least favorite of the options, primarily due the time it could take to exercise it effectively. Our bullpen will still be an issue next year, so it is not like the dollars are wasted on this year alone. I love the guys in the minors, but if a proven, young 8th inning guy can be had for someone not named Noah, I would be inclined to listen hard.

Let’s not let the dream of winning baseball in 2014 quickly evaporate. The bullpen is our weakest link, Sandy. Make a move. And do it quickly.

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