Position: Relief Pitcher
Age: November 30, 1988 (29)
Traditional Stats: 4-6, 27 SV, 70 G, 67.0 IP, 80 SO, 33 BB, 4.70 ERA, 1.358 WHIP, .231 AVG Against
Advanced Stats: 0.0 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR, 4.56 FIP, .292 BABIP
With Mickey Callaway as his pitching coach between 2013 and 2017, Cody Allen was among the most dominant back-end relievers in baseball. In that span, Allen saved 122 games for the Tribe with a 2.59 ERA and nearly 12 strikeouts per nine. After a down season in 2018, perhaps a reunion with Callaway would be beneficial to both sides.
During the Indians’ postseason runs in 2016 and 2017, Allen was one-third of the Tribe’s three-headed bullpen monster, along with the remarkably consistent Bryan Shaw and the incomparable Andrew Miller. Allen finished 55 games in both of those seasons, proving to be Terry Francona’s most trusted arm when it came to closing the door.
Despite his previous success, Allen struggled in 2018. Allen reached the 70-appearance plateau for the first time since 2015, but his ERA jumped by nearly two full runs, up from 2.94 to 4.70. This can likely be attributed, in part, to a walk rate that jumped from 2.81 in 2017 to 4.43 in 2018. His strikeout rate also dipped from 12.30 to 10.75. Allen gave up a career high 11 home runs in 2018.
Allen is generally a two-pitch pitcher, with a fastball sitting 93-96 MPH, and a power curve that sits between 83-85 MPH. He throws the fastball nearly two-thirds of the time. The curve is probably Allen’s better pitch. In terms of spin rate, the pitch, at 2575 RPM, is on pace with Craig Kimbrel’s lethal breaking ball. In terms of whiff rate, which is the percentage of missed swings out of swings taken against the pitch, Allen’s curve ranked fourth among all right-handed relievers, with batters missing about 48% of time when they swung at the pitch.
Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, and Aroldis Chapman have received the biggest contracts for relievers in recent memory, and there’s been diminished returns on all three. Because of that, teams might be less willing to break the bank for tier-one relievers. Allen, had he been a free agent after 2017, would be looking at a contract more along the lines of Melancon’s four-year,$62 million deal with San Francisco. When Allen was bordering elite-status, a $12-14 million AAV would not have been out of the question.
Coming off of a rough season, Allen is more likely to get something similar to Steve Cishek or Addison Reed last offseason. Both righties received two years, and Reed got the higher payday with greater than $8 million per season.
Free agent relief market usually favors some recency bias. For instance, the Mets signed Anthony Swarzak last offseason based more on his 2017 success as opposed to his career history. Allen’s down 2018 will hurt him in negotiations, but there is probably some team out there in need of closer that would probably match a 3-year, $24 million deal.
The Mets bullpen needs a heavy overhaul. There are good, young pieces in there, like Tyler Bashlor, Drew Smith, and Daniel Zamora, to go with the likes of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. However, the bullpen as it stands is not nearly deep or proven enough to satisfy the Mets needs.
The team’s best course of action would be to lock up the ninth inning and throw away the key. But if they aren’t going to shell out the necessary shillings to attract Craig Kimbrel, lure David Robertson across town, or bring Adam Ottavino home, then looking into the next tier is not a bad idea. If Allen can be had for cheap, a reunion with Mickey Callaway could go a long way to rehabilitating the closer and the Mets’ bullpen.