With Spring Training mere days away, the Mets are putting more focus on who currently resides on their roster rather than the remaining names left on the free agent market.
However, in the last week, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson has made a flurry of transactions all aimed at improving one of the team’s most glaring needs heading into the 2013 season — their bullpen.
In recent memory, Alderson has signed free agent relievers Pedro Feliciano, Scott Atchison, LaTroy Hawkins and is reportedly close to a deal with hard-throwing set-up man Brandon Lyon. All of the signings -— sans Lyon — were minor league deals, meaning the Mets have made a series of calculated low risk/high reward moves that have the potential to revamp what was one of the worst bullpens in the major league last year.
The Mets’ need was apparent. Last season, the Mets ‘pen posted a collective 4.65 ERA, one of the worst in the majors. And while a slew of minor-league deals might not seem like a sexy way to rebuild a bullpen, the process fits in perfectly with the Mets position and place in the NL East moving forward.
The Mets are not going to be in the upper echelon of the National League next year. That’s not to say that the team can’t be respectable – but, when looking at the Braves’ and Nationals’ rosters, it doesn’t seem likely the team will be competing for the NL East crown come September. However, the Mets’ pen decisions perfectly mirror this.
All of the team’s newly acquired arms are on cheap deals that the Mets have flexibility with, allowing them to mix and match the older veterans they signed with the slew of young arms that are currently developing in AAA and AA.
Now, if the bullpen falters -– like it did last season – suddenly the Mets will not be faced with a lack of depth, but actually the complete opposite. Throughout the 2013 season, the Mets bullpen should be a revolving door of those within the organization who are throwing the best, rather than a revolving door of poor relievers that fans have grown accustomed to in the past.
However, looking forward to the 2014 season, this strategy of signing low-risk arms makes even more sense. Giving the dearth of young arms, the Mets have in the minor leagues an extra season to develop should pay off in spades in ‘14 and beyond.
Names like Jack Leathersich, Cory Mazzoni, Jeurys Familia, Elvin Ramirez and Robert Carson all are seen as potential weapons in the bullpen and all could benefit from not being counted on to produce immediately — which seemed like the case only a few weeks ago for the Mets.
Perhaps over the course of the season all of the names above will have brief cups of coffee in the big leagues instead of being forced to be something they might not.
Strong bullpens are the key to winning championships – just ask the Giants – so any way the Mets can begin to cultivate that seems like a step in the right direction.