Through the Looking-Glass with the Mets’ bullpen

Sunday night Terry Collins was faced with a dilemma: Use Miguel Batista for a second inning or bring in Tim Byrdak to face more than one batter.  Collins opted for Batista, who promptly gave up the game-winning home run to Robinson Cano, a lefty.  The Yankees had Cano, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher due up in the inning.  Both Teixeira and Swisher are switch-hitters who are worse against LHP than RHP yet Collins chose to stick with Batista and paid the price.

The Mets’ reaction to this situation is to add another LHP to their roster, as they promoted Justin Hampson who was not even on the team’s 40-man roster.  To make room for Hampson, the Mets DFAd Vinny Rottino, taking away a RHB in the process.

Is this really the best allocation of resources?

Byrdak is on the roster to get out LHB yet in a tie game in the 8th inning with a key lefty at the plate and two switch-hitters, he couldn’t be used.  And to rectify this situation, they add another lefty, presumably another guy who can’t be used to face RHB.  It feels like I fell down the rabbit hole.  How many situational lefties does a team need?  How many relievers who can only be used for one or two batters is the optimal number in this crazy new world?

While you ponder that, consider that Sampson will be the 21st pitcher used by the Mets this season.  Last year the Mets used 23 hurlers over the entire season.

The new pen will have two lefties, Bobby Parnell as closer and Jon Rauch as a primary setup man.  Welcome to Wonderland where things like this happen and no one bats an eye.

Suddenly, Daniel Murphy’s mustache makes more sense.

6 comments for “Through the Looking-Glass with the Mets’ bullpen

  1. 7train
    June 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Rottino probably makes it through waivers and since we’re stuck with Bay and he’s close to returning would have been waived anyway and there’s only so much that the new FO can do about the lack of right handed hitting outfielders in the farm. Lagares, Vaughn, Puello and Taijeron have many questions and are at least two years away. Ratliff really hurt and so did the Bay signing and there just aren’t good solutions for every single need in free agency every year.

    The Mets are at least a full year away from being a legitimate contender and all the high draft picks used on college relief pitchers busted. Kunz, Rustich, Niessen and Clyne and the one who did pan out was traded (Smith) Wagner and K-Rod cost first round draft choices as well and that was a case of borrowing against future years teams and this is the downside to that philosophy.

    Wagner could have returned two first round picks but instead was sold for a LH DH inorder to avoid having to pay the signing bonus those two picks would have cost. O’Day was a terrific rule 5 pick up but was lost through roster bungling.

    The dry spell we’re going through right now is directly related to borrowing from the future , adhearing to the slot guidelines and busting on all those early round college relief pitching slot selections.

    On the way up are quite a number of good looking bullpen candidates in Edgin, Elvin Ramirez, Armando Rodriguez, Adrian Rosario, Carson, Kaplan, Bennett, Kolerak, Leathersich, Frazer, Walters and Whittenden as well as current starters in Familia, Mejia and Gorski.

    Smith and O’Day could have helped us get to these youngsters but there was never any thought given to anything beyond this year, until their ready we have no choice but to rely on retreads and hope we can get something out of them.

    That’s a real hit and miss proposition.

    • June 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Hey 7train – thanks for reading and commenting! I enjoy your feedback on our articles and the time you put into your responses.

      In a vacuum, Rottino is no great loss. Right this second, I would rather have him than a second relief pitcher who needs to be micro-managed.

      The college relievers you mentioned are disappointing in that we didn’t hit on one of them. It probably would have been Rustich if he didn’t come down with just about every arm injury imaginable. It happens.

      I’m not sure the rationale for dealing Wagner was that they didn’t want to pay the signing bonus for the draft picks. I’m not ruling it out – just saying I don’t think we can just declare that was the issue. I think the FO was very afraid that they would offer arbitration and he would accept, kind of like what happened to the Brewers and K-Rod this past offseason. They couldn’t risk that, having already spent closer money on Rodriguez, they couldn’t offer arbitration so they took some immediate salary relief and picked up some org soldiers, too.

      I think you’re missing out on another reason for the dry spell in relievers – the ones that Alderson hitched his wagon to this offeseason. He overpaid for Rauch and Byrdak and those mistakes were magnified by the uncharacteristically bad performance from Ramon Ramirez. Also, Rhiner Cruz was lost for nothing and while he’s been lit up in June and Interleague play, he was effective the first two months of the season.

      If losing O’Day was a black mark for the previous administration, it should be pointed out that he could have been had for a waiver claim this offseason by Alderson.

      Francisco has an 86% save percentage and I don’t think we could have asked anything more than that from him. What’s hurting now is the failure of both Ramirez and Manny Acosta, who had each done well previously. Those two setbacks magnify the problems with having Rauch as a key reliever and carrying Byrdak and being so limited in options that you can’t pitch him in a tie game in the 8th inning with two switch-hitters who are worse against lefties because Byrdak can’t face back-to-back righties in a tight game.

      If Ramirez comes back and can nail down the 8th inning, that will solve a lot of problems. If he can’t then they need to make a trade if they hope to keep their Wild Card hopes alive.

      • 7train
        June 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm

        Brian, thank you for the thought you put into your articles. Very enlightning and well written, appreciate it.

        I’m not so concerned with what Rauch and Francisco got paid. Rauch in particular probably wanted more since he was only getting one year which is important so we don’t lose another Rhyner Cruz (or De La Torre) If it costs extra for one year I’m good with that. Francisco got two years, that means he has to be on the 40 come November as Carrasco was last year. That’s a much bigger issue. Ramirez is a one year guy too who presumably could be resigned after the rule 5 so I can at least understand the rationale. Personally I really liked Pagan but he didn’t help out that much against LHP and I have no explanation for his puzzling defensive miscues. Either way the idea was Rauch, Ramirez and Francisco would cover 3 times the innings for a little less than K-Rod cost, perhaps not quite as well as K-Rod would handle his presummed 60 IP but quantity mattered because as usual we have no one. Just like catcher, RF, 2B ect ect ect.

        Hasn’t worked out though has it? Some relievers who were terrible in 2011 have been good in 2012 and vice versa. Can’t blame it all on the defense either but it has been a big issue in the late innings and we can’t assume that every reliever was breaking down the door to come here either. For all we know the current FO did try to bring back O’Day. Bottom line is you have to be able to produce a number of your own pitchers who still have options and bring ‘em up and send ‘em down as circumstances dictate. We’re not that far from having that situation right now. Once that’s done you can target the perfect fit. The last two years we’ve been in shotgun mode and still missed the target. That can’t be denied. I don’t hold out any hope for Ramirez coming back strong this year either.

        Wagner didn’t accept arb with Boston why would he have with us? He wasn’t going to set up for anyone. He wanted one last contract and to close for a team with a chance to win. Probably was sending admiring glances toward Atlanta while rehabbing in Virginia.

        I don’t think there can be any question those picks were sold to save buyout and salary and the signing bonus the two picks would have commanded because we certainly didn’t need yet another left handed DH or a 21 year old 1B man in rookie ball. Really two #1 picks for a DH and a guy that was sent packing after 43 AB’s?

        Same thing was done with Barajas. Sold to LA for cash after the deadline when he was already guaranteed to be a type B FA and only making $500,000 for the whole season. What did that save $80,000 plus whatever they got from the Dodgers. The real savings though was in not having to pay the 50th or so best amateur in the deepest draft in 20 years his signing bonus. If he had accepted we needed a catcher anyway and arb on half a million? Probably would have cost less than Paulino but there is no way in the world Barajas accepts arb with a $500,000 base so what was the benefit to us? Not having to pay the signing bonus. Same as with Wagner.

        You can’t fix a farm system that was neglected and stripped during the Phillips era and filled with so many one dimensional players afterward in one or two off seasons. Fortunately there is a ton of quantity down there and the key is to give it time and add to it. The cream will rise and so will the Mets but not until the roster and farm get straightened out.

        That work is a little more than halfway done and 2014 should resemble 1984. Whatever we get before then should be considered a blessing.

        Thanks again for your articles Brian.

        • June 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

          Here’s a piece I wrote in early 2010 on Wagner that you might like
          http://mets360.com/?p=561

          As for Barajas – he was a 34 year old catcher who looked like he was at the end of the line. After a strong six weeks to open the year, Barajas had a .180/.225/.263 line when they put him on waivers. By then Thole had come up and the Mets wanted him to play. They had Blanco, who was much better defensively,as their backup catcher. Barajas wasn’t playing well, there was no room for him unless they carried three catchers (and who does that now?) and they found someone to take him off their hands and give up some cash.

          I’m convinced the Barajas move was not about avoiding paying potential future draft picks. It was getting cash now for a guy who had outlived his usefulness for the club.

          I think a stronger case can be made about that with Wagner but I still don’t think that was the ultimate reason why they traded him.

          • 7train
            June 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

            Nice article on the Wagner trade Brian.

            I don’t think the Braves would have balked at giving us their draft choice had we held onto Wagner after all they gave us their pick for a year of Tommy Glavine. That’s how we got Ike, and Holt came from the supplemental pick.

            One thing I would think we could easily agree upon is that the Wagner trade was not about acquiring Chris Carter a 27 year old LH DH about to be removed from Boston’s 40 man roster and completely useless to a NL team or Eddie Lora a 21 year old first basemen in the lowest level of the minors who didn’t hit. We already had a multitude of DH types in the minors and most were lefthanded and defensively Chris Carter makes Lucas Duda look like Dewey Evans. How is that reasonable compensation in exchange for 2 first round draft choices?

            So what was it about? The trade was consummated on August 25th with 5 weeks left in the season. Wagner was owed a little under 2 M at that point plus a 1.5 M buyout. Savings of 3.3 M. For Boston Wagner was a damn good arm down the stretch and in the post season and he didn’t cost anything but money as Carter and Lora were useless to them and contractually he was able to be offered arbitration which mean’t that Boston could get a first and a supplemental round pick, which they did.

            Wagner wanted 3 things. To close, chance for a ring and a contract and possibly to do it close to home. Boston could have given him two of the three and yet Wagner turned them down. We, realistically, could have offered only one of the 3 so he certainly would have turned us down as well.

            The two picks Boston got received $890,000 and 2.55 M. No guarantee we take the same guys of course but none the less that’s what the 20th and 39th picks Wagner left behind cost. Total savings on the deal for the Mets 3.3 M + 3.4 M or approximately the cost of JJ Putz 2009 salary and buyout which pushed the Met Payroll to it’s highest levels ever and in a year in which expected revenue’s tanked and the full effects of Madoff were just being felt.

            No way Wagner accepts arbitration from us to set up Frankie. The picks for sold to save 6.7 M. Carter and Lora were window dressing.

            Sometimes it makes sense not to offer arbitration or it is at least understandable. Fonzie for example with his bad back or Cliff Floyd when they wanted to move on but this was such a clear cut, no risk opportunity to at least add top talent to an Organization so starved of it which had already spent at least 12 first or 2nd rounders in the last 11 years in an attempt to make up for the lack of credible prospects in the system. Here was a chance to add a couple.

            Teams like Boston and the Yankees know they need to have something to trade when they want someone. The Yankees do it with high end IFA’s like Austin Jackson and Jose Montero. Boston did it by stockpiling extra picks. An active process in which they traded for guys who they then let go such as Alex Gonzalez, Orlando Cabrera, Wagner, Bay and Victor Martinez and cashed in for two draft picks. Waiver wire pickups like Gagne. FA’s they signed and let go Derrick Lowe, Damon, Mueller and Beltre.

            Between 2005 and 2010 the Red Sox added 21 1st, supplemental and 2nd round draft picks selecting such players as Ellsbury, Buckholtz, Lowrie, Bard and top prospects Blake Swihart and Matt Barnes. Many others are climbing the minors right now. Some have and others will bust. Some will be part time stop gaps, some will be included in trades and others may become stars. Either way Boston has a chance to get something, we don’t.

            The Blue Jays have been stockpiling extra picks since 2007. 18 extra picks by “losing” Burnett, Catalonotto, Speir, Lilly, Scutero, Barajas, Downs, Buck, Gregg, Olivio, Francisco, Rauch and Jose Molina. They now boast the best minor league system in the game including the pre season #52, 67 and 91 best prospects, 3 more highly regarded pitching prospects and Brett Cecil among others all from not selling players in August. This didn’t happen by accident, it was a deliberate process. Miguel Olivio is an especially interesting case. Toronto bought him after the 2010 season from Colorado for $500,000, declined his option, paid his buyout and Voila, 57th pick in the draft was theirs. Never even put on a Blue Jay uniform.

            We on the other hand have repeatedly found ways to get rid of draft choices. Signing Moises Alou a week before the Winter meetings mean’t SF got our 2007 1st rounder without even having to offer arb. It also had the residual benefit of costing us a 21 year old catcher who had clubbed 30 doubles and 20 HR’s in A+ since we had no room to protect him on the 40 man roster because we had to add Alou to it.

            Speaking of catcher whatever small benefit there could have been in bringing up Josh Thole in 2010 and consequently selling Rod Barajas for cash to the Dodgers pales in comparison to what that draft choice might have done for us. Josh Thole didn’t really start catching in the minors until 2008. That pick would have been about #50 in the deepest most talent laden draft perhaps of all time. Just at catcher alone there were Brett Austin, Austin Hedges and Andrew Susak. A big market club might have gone after Josh Bell, Pittsburgh did. That supplemental and 2nd round were better than a normal years first round and everyone around baseball knew it too including the Yankees. Ownership kind of forced Cashman to give up his #1 pick for Soriano but he went and cut a deal with Javier Vazquez to decline arb as a plan B which at least got them a supplemental pick in Dante Bichette Jr.

            Some teams find a way to get extra picks and some teams find a way to give them away. We’ve even found a way to sell them at the pawn shop.

  2. Metsense
    June 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    When I woke up this morning the Mets were still a wild card team. They just went through a very tough 25 games and were competitive. They need bullpen help and they need it now. It may cost them some of their second level minor league pitching but the goal is to make the playoffs and the Mets are there. Street would be a good acquisition because they would have him for two years or buy him out for 1/2M. Brian, I agree that a LOOGY is ridiculous waste of money and resources. Bullpens should have the best pitchers in them but it doesn’t hurt for a front office to try and balance a bullpen when possible. Relief pitchers are also streaky and unreliable so I hope the Mets trade some of that middle infield backlog for some relief pitching also. The bullpen is the need.

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