Age: October 20, 1989 (29)
Traditional Stats: 8-6, 3.13 ERA, 70 G, 18 SV, 72.0 IP, 83 K, 1.222 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 10.4 K/9
Advanced Stats: 1.5 bWAR, 1.8 fWAR 125 ERA+, 2.65 FIP
Familia has proven himself to be one of the best right-handed relievers in Mets history. He cemented that status with an incredible three year run. From 2014-2016, Familia averaged 77 appearances and 77.2 innings per season with a 2.20 ERA, 171 ERA+, 2.73 FIP, and a 9.4 K/9.
While not truly acknowledged as such, Familia also established himself as one of the best relievers in all of baseball during that stretch.
Over that timeframe, Familia had the most innings pitched among National League relievers. Among relievers who had pitched over 200 innings over those three years, he had the fifth best ERA in all of baseball.
Among National League relievers who pitched over 200 innings over that same three year stretch, he had the best HR/9. While this has been lost through three World Series blown saves and the Conor Gillaspie homer, Familia was absolutely among the best relievers in the game, especially with his being the most durable.
That was until his disastrous 2017 season. After serving a domestic violence suspension, he would be diagnosed with an arterial clot in his pitching shoulder requiring surgery. On and off the field, this was the worst season of his career, and in many ways, his career was at an important crossroads.
Working with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland this season, Familia got back to being a good and reliable late inning reliever albeit not quite the dominant one he was. In 40 appearances for the Mets, Familia was 4-4 with 18 saves, a 2.88 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9. Perhaps in a show of how much he was no longer dominant, Familia would blow four saves in his 22 save opportunities.
With Familia being a pending free agent and the Mets well out of the division and Wild Card races, Familia was shipped to the Oakland Athletics for the widely panned return of Will Toffey and Bobby Wahl.
While Familia got off to a quick start with the Athletics by not allowing an earned run in his first eight appearances. After that, he would hit a speed bump with consecutive poor outings, and he was not quite the same after that. In his 30 appearances for the Athletics, Familia was 4-2 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, and an 11.5 K/9.
Really underscoring that high ERA were two factors. First and foremost, Familia was walking too many batters, which is something that has always been an issue for him. The other issue was he had three outings where he allowed two plus runs. Certainly, those three outings inflated his ERA. In total, Familia would not allow an earned run in 23 of his 30 appearances for the Athletics.
Now, Familia enters the free agent market with no one quite knowing what he is. Is he a second tier closer behind someone like Craig Kimbrel where a team will be happy they saved money on Familia for what could reasonably be similar production next year? Could he be a trusted late inning set-up man? Or quite possibly, Familia is a 30 year old reliever who may have something in the tank, but it’s not quite enough to justify the contract he is going to garner this offseason.
Contracts for relievers have exploded the past few seasons with teams needing just one good year from a guy to give them a large deal. The Mets are no stranger to this phenomenon as they gave a 31 Anthony Swarzak a two year $14 million deal based upon one good season in his career.
With the Nationals already giving Trevor Rosenthal a one year $7 million deal after he missed all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, it does not seem like the reliever prices on the free agent market going down this offseason.
In terms of a contract comparison, Brandon Morrow may be informative. Morrow was slightly older when he hit the market last year, but he was also coming off a great year with the Dodgers. That earned him a two year $21 million contract from the Cubs to be the closer.
With Familia having a longer history of being healthy, his being younger, and his closing experience, it’s likely he garners more. Overall, he is probably going to get a contract up to 3 years long worth approximately $12+ million per season.
Looking at the Mets bullpen, they need at least two late inning arms. They could need even more if they do move Seth Lugo back to the rotation. More than identifying a guy who can be a dominant late inning arm in the bullpen, whether he pitches in the eighth or ninth inning, the Mets need a guy who can handle the pressure of doing that in New York. It’s a factor many discount, but it is a factor that matters.
Surveying the free agent relief market, there are only two relievers who qualify – David Robertson and Familia. If Brodie Van Wagenen is true to his word about the Mets winning next year, the Mets have to add one of those two relievers to the 2019 bullpen. Of the two, Familia is not only the younger pitcher, but he also probably the more realistic target.
While the failures of Familia have been long debated among Mets fans, the fact is Familia has proven he can pitch in New York, and he has shown he can pitch on the biggest stage. Because of that, we should hear Danza Kuduro blasting through the Citi Field speakers next season.