The Mets bullpen is a mess. While it may be jarring on a night-to-night basis, it isn’t especially surprising. Bullpens tend to be volatile from year-to-year, as it’s probably the most unpredictable aspect of a baseball team. Throw into the mix that the same group of Mets relievers has been overworked for years and that the bullpen as a whole was largely ignored in the offseason, and it’s pretty clear how we got here.
But no one can change the past, and no one is going to mortgage the future. The Mets aren’t going to go back and sign Kenley Jansen, and they aren’t going to trade Dom Smith for David Robertson. Instead they need to roll the dice on what they have, shift around roles, and allow young players to step up. The pieces are there, but now it comes down to using those pieces correctly.
Step 1: Make Addison Reed the closer
This has been done due to Jeurys Familia‘s surgery. Despite his recent struggles, he should stay in this role. Outside of the home run ball, Addison Reed has been pretty strong this season. His FIP is 2.35, his K/9 is up, and he hasn’t walked a batter all season. He’s the best option in the 9th and will probably equal what Familia would have done in this role.
Step 2: Make Jerry Blevins the setup man
The Mets need to use their best pitchers late in games. Don’t limit Jerry Blevins’ role just because he’s a lefty. Over the last two season, righties are 14-for-67 off Blevins. He’s arguably the team’s most reliable reliever and should be used as such. Roll the dice here and expand his role. It can’t get any worse right now.
Step 3: Give Paul Sewald a chance
In seven appearances this season, Paul Sewald has been legitimately good. His FIP is 1.19, and he has a 3.00 ERA despite a .382 BABIP. Going back to the minors, he’s never had an ERA above 3.29 for a full season. He is a young, fresh arm that can get people out. Seems like that’s exactly what the team should want, right? Not so much, as Sewald has been relegated to mostly mop-up work. Pitch your best pitchers in the most important situations. That means use Sewald. He should fill Hansel Robles’ role immediately.
Step 4: Get rid of Rafael Montero and maybe Fernando Salas
Rafael Montero has been given his fair share of chances. His stuff hasn’t translated at the major league level, and his tendency to walk batters (7.6 BB/9 since 2016) isn’t fit for the bullpen. Surprisingly though, he tends to find himself in close games. Eliminate the option by getting rid of him.
Meanwhile, Fernando Salas is tricky. He’s the perfect example of how the Mets settled for relief options in free agency. He’s not very good (and hasn’t been for awhile) and should be relegated to mop-up work. However, Terry Collins seems to lean on him because he has late-inning experience. In 18.1 innings this season, he has a 5.89 ERA, 5.15 FIP, and 1.85 WHIP.
Sometimes you just have to take away the option, and that means cutting Salas loose. It would be warranted production wise, but with the financial investment remains unlikely. So for now, the hope is he’ll be the mop-up guy.
Step 5: Call up the young guys
Josh Smoker could and probably should come back up and be an upgrade over a guy like Montero. Then there’s Kyle Regnault, A 28-year-old lefty who dominated Double-A and has fired two scoreless innings in Triple-A. Another option is Alberto Baldonado, a 24-year-old lefty reliever, who also recently got the Triple-A call after 16.2 scoreless Double-A innings. Give these guys a shot and use them. In a statement that is so obvious it barely needs to be said, young pitchers have less innings on them than old pitchers and should be able to bounce back easier.
Step 6: Find a multi-inning reliever
The bullpen revolution is upon us, and the Mets are on the outside looking in. They need some one they can count on to go at least two innings multiple times per week. This should not just limit the usage of all other relievers, but it should hopefully bridge the gap between the starters and the quality relievers. Obviously, if the team was fully healthy, this would be Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo, so filling this void might not be possible until then.
This isn’t a foolproof plan, but trying the same thing over and over with this bullpen is verging on insanity. The key to a good bullpen is a fresh arms and pitching your best pitchers when it matters. The Mets have young arms and good relievers. Now it’s about using them right.