Now that spring training is about to conclude and the baseball season will officially begin, the time of speculation and predictions will end and the time for results and performances will start.
The Mets have pieced together their final 25-man roster heading toward April 1. The team will feature new faces and different personalities that new General Manager Sandy Alderson and his regime hope will lead into different results than the Mets’ previous seasons.
One of the under-the-radar acquisitions that Alderson made this offseason was signing Taylor Buchholz to a one-year, $600,000 deal, epitomizes the selective and smart type of direction the Mets’ front office has started to implement going forward.
Under extreme financial pressure and off the field distractions clouding the team’s press time, Alderson was able to scout low-risk, high-reward talents that have impressed so far in their short Mets careers.
Buchholz’s deal includes performance based incentives that could drive the deal to $1.1 million and should something go wrong this season for the reliever, the Mets are not contractually obligated to him beyond this year.
However, if things go right, the Mets may have found a potential steal this offseason.
Many fans seem to forget that only a few years ago Buchholz was one of the National League’s most dominant and exciting relief pitchers. Boasting a powerful curveball and pinpoint control, Buchholz was one of the Rockies best set-up relievers in 2008. He finished the 2008 campaign with a 2.17 ERA in 63 appearances.
Before his spectacular 2008 season, Buchholz was a top prospect that was expected to be a dominant pitcher. In 2003 Buchholz was part of the deal that sent all-star closer Billy Wagner to the Phillies from the Astros and was eventually called up by Houston during the 2006 season.
For the 2007 season, the highly regarded pitcher was sent to Colorado in a trade that sent Jason Jennings to the pitching starved Astros.
Buchholz’s career took a tragic turn in 2009, missing the entire season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Over the 2010 season Buchholz bounced from the Rockies, Blue Jays and Red Sox – being picked up on waivers and only having small chances to prove himself healthy after the surgery.
However, Alderson realized that the once highly-regarded pitcher was available and would be willing to prove that he could return to his 2008 dominance on a cheap deal.
So far, Buchholz has done nothing but impress the Mets. So far this spring, Buchholz has pitched 15 scoreless innings, striking out 10 and only walking three. Buchholz’s performance has made him a lock for the Opening Day roster and if he continues to pitch effectively, could blossom into a set up man for Francisco Rodriguez.
While this is only a small sample of innings to make assumptions off of, the potential Buchholz has is exciting. If Buchholz is able to recapture the ability that made him such an effective relief pitcher, the Mets’ bullpen suddenly seems much stronger.