Rafael MonteroJohn Harper of the Daily News had an interesting proposition for the New York Mets the other day in his column, which you can read here, and that was exploring the idea of putting guys like Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in the bullpen given the current anemic state of the relief corps.

As it is right now, the Mets are playing with fire every time they rely on the bullpen late in games while leaning on retreads like Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth. (Anyone see how the Mets had to sweat it out last night with an amazing tag at the plate by Travis d’Arnaud?). It’s gotten so bad that the Mets are relying on a veteran, who has been a starter all his career, in Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch in important innings late.

Maybe the Mets could use an injection of youth in the bullpen after all.

As Harper points out, it’s the same approach that pitching-rich clubs like the Braves and, in particular, the Cardinals have took and maybe the Mets should take a page out of the same book.

Now, no one is saying that Montero and deGrom should be groomed to be future relievers, but if the Braves and Cardinals have told us anything, it is that this experiment works. Just look at what it did for guys like Alex Wood and Kris Medlen (injury notwithstanding) for the Braves and Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, etc. for the Cardinals.

When you’re getting late into games, you want guys who can throw hard and that is where Montero and deGrom can help out. This way, you kill two birds with one stone. First, you have them get acclimated to the majors in relief and use their talents to fortify a major weakness in the process. Then come the next year, you can stretch them out in the spring and have them ready to be part of the staff if you want.

The one person, though, the Mets should avoid in regards to this plan, should be Noah Syndergaard, as Harper also points out. He is certainly an ace in the making and he will no doubt be a part of the rotation for years to come. So, obviously, there is no need to tinker with those plans.

With a bullpen full of veterans on their last leg, well, that certainly doesn’t look like a sustainable plan.  The Mets, for all their warts, are not doing a bad job this year and are keeping their heads above water. If they can strengthen their bullpen this way, it could go a long way in making the team a much stronger unit and make the season an exciting one.

Again, no one is suggesting that all pitchers should be treated this way, as this would only be a one-year experiment. See how it works. Considering how long it took Jenrry Mejia to come back to form after constantly being jettisoned back and forth from the staff to the bullpen, well, it’s natural to be be skeptical.

Simply put, though, if you want to utilize Montero and deGrom in 2014, this may be the only way to go. If the Mets’ starters stay healthy (and you can include Matsuzaka for this exercise) and you want to bring up Syndergaard eventually, too, what role can Montero and deGrom have with the big club this year otherwise?

The intention should be to inject some youth and energy to the relief corps and give the Mets the best bullpen it can possibly assemble. Bring up Vic Black and Jack Leathersich while we’re at it.

You have to admit, it’s a tantalizing idea.

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16 comments on “Should Mets try experimenting putting Montero and deGrom in the bullpen?

  • Metsense

    Not only is it a tantalizing idea, it is an idea that Sandy had alluded to in the pre season. The Mets have been extending their middle relievers, Torres, Matsuzakis and Germen with multiple innings in the beginning of the season and it appears to be working. The natural progression is to add deGrom and Montero to the mix. The Mets have five capable starters and by 2015 they will have 12 when you add in Hefner, Harvey and Syndergaard. You can only start five. Any of these 12 are better pitchers than what they have been trotting out as 2014 relievers (except Germen has done well). I hope this tantalizing idea becomes a reality because I believe it will improve the team at their weakest position.The other plus is that it may stop TC from using three pitchers to get through an inning and that really would be a good thing.

    • Joe Vasile

      I think while the idea is nice in theory, I’d rather not go that route. Dan gave the example of Jenrry Mejia as why we should be skeptical of this working. Sure, it has worked for the Cardinals, but if this was such a great idea, why have more teams not adopted it?

      Personally I like the idea of extending Torres, Matsuzaka and Germen to pitch multiple innings, they’re all ex-starters and have enough stamina to do it, so why waste another pitcher?

      • Jerry Grote

        Why have more teams not adopted it?

        Well, most teams haven’t nearly the amount of pitching the Mets, Braves and Cards have. I would as soon have DeGrom and Montero in Queens sooner rather than later, playing in that band box/launching pad in Las Vegas and eventually ruining themselves.

      • Brian Joura

        I don’t care if other teams do it – I care only if it makes sense for the Mets to do it.

        Imagine a pen without Scott Rice and Jose Valverde and instead made up of six guys who could throw multiple innings on a regular basis. Forget trying to manage for the platoon advantage. Imagine needing only two relief pitchers in a game. Forget days where three relievers are unavailable and two more guys have pitched in three of the last four games. Imagine a bullpen with only six relievers and a bench with another hitter.

        Could it work for the Mets? I believe it could but we’ll never find out because we’re too afraid to try something different. After three years of crappy bullpens, I’m more than ready to try something new.

        • Jerry Grote

          I agree with this concept generally, but I wonder how supply and demand would figure into it being a sustainable approach.

          Certainly we have the players to do it.

          Because I posted something similar to this idea, I did a little research on it the other day. I looked at all NL pitchers that averaged 1.5 innings per game over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

          What I found was that only a dozen or so made the list each year. Few managed to repeat (Torres, Gaudin, Ottavino, Stammen,Simon) 6 in total, of 15. Of course, two (Medlin, Gorzelanny) were moved to the rotation.

          I don’t have the time to do a more thorough search through multiple years, but that indicates to me that managers in general don’t see guys capable of it. Roughly one RP, per team is slotted to the spot.

          OTOH … a notable increase. In 2012, only a total 28 of 125 relief pitchers averaged 1 inning per game. In 2013, the number almost doubled to 51. I didn’t drop 2014 into a spreadsheet, but a brief glance looks like that trend will intensify this year … perhaps 60 to 70.

          • Brian Joura

            You raise a valid point.

            My reply would be — What’s sustainable about the approach we’re using now? Using IP as a quick-and-dirty substitute, in the last five years only three relieves have posted multiple 50-IP seasons as a reliever for the Mets. And two of those are closers (Parnell, K-Rod).

            • Jerry Grote

              A quick check says that you might be using what you think you know about TC, and what is actually occurring.

              Other than Scott Rice, and Lannan – who is no longer with the club, nearly every other pitcher is above 1 IP/GM as a reliever in 2014. This strongly contrasts with 2013, when *nearly every pitcher* threw less than 1 IP/GM.

              All standard caveats apply (TC changing his mind, small samples). He might never get to what both you and I would like to see … starter goes 6, two other relievers end the game. But it appears as if he is changing.

              And the bullpen certainly has become more effective since the opening series.

  • TexasGusCC

    No! If anything use Wheeler in the pen or trade two of the Gee, Montero, Wheeler, deGrom, Niese pitchers to get a real hitter. Use Black, Familia, German, Torres, Rice/Edgin, and two of the Farnsworth, Valverde, Dice-K signings. First, the older guys were signed as filler, not to be closers. We could have had Hawkins for $2.5MM, but… Secondly, as far Wheeler is concerned, he is not showing improved command and don’t know when that will come. He could be a very good reliever with what he has, but he cannot go through a lineup three times if he cannot control his pitches.

    In the pen he could work on that, or send him packing and use the others that have mastered their craft better.

  • amazin

    Everybody knows a starter is worth more than a reliever. Why take a young starter and throw him in the BP when you have a club whose ceiling is a 500 team with a lot weaknesses? What you do is this. When Montero and Degrom are ready (and Syndergard) you trade a Mejia, a Wheeler, a Neise or maybe two of them and get the shortstop and the hitter you need. Maybe get a good young arm for the BP too. If you have an excess of talent you use it to strenthen the weaknesses on the rest of your team. If Montero and De Grom come up in July and Colon is pitching well he could be traded too for a young setup guy that throws hard.

    • TexasGusCC

      Amazing, let’s look at the Rays:
      When they have a plethora of starters, they take their most expensive or about to become expensive one and trade him to stock up their organization. They do not use starters in the bullpen, unless it’s for half a year. Furthermore, the two teams mentioned, the Cardinals and Braves only use starters in the pen to improve their control, like Wacha early last year and Teheran two years ago. That why I wrote what I did about Wheeler. I would put Wheeler in the pen and trade Niese or Gee. I would go Colon, Dice-k, Montero, Mejia/Syndergaard combo, DeGrom and Niese/Gee.

  • Name

    I think the decision to put starters in the bullpen to start is on a guy by guy basis. My general rule is that guys who are studs should not be messed with by moving to the bullpen. Once they hit the bullpen, their trade value plummets. You could likely get 2 top notch relievers for a great pitching prospect so it makes no sense to put them in the pen. Also, you run the risk of the manager not willing to move them back to the starting role or doubt when they do move back (like Feliz, Chapman, Joba, Papelbon, Ogando, etc…)

    Also, my decision also includes the tendencies of the manager and GM. The Cardinals and Braves have shown that they stick to their word of putting guys back in the rotation after short bouts in the bullpen. However, the extent of their bullpen usage has been greatly exaggerated by the NY media in my opinion. Guys like Lynn, Wacha, Wood have less than bullpen experiences of less than 2 months. Wainwright is the only true case of a reliever turned back into full-time dominant starter. However, a franchise like Texas, which has also tried this method, has not really stuck to that gameplan. As of right now, i have no faith that TC/Alderson will handle these guys correctly if they get put in the bullpen.

    In the end though, there’s no right answer. The majority who come up and dominate go thru the traditional route of SP in the minors directly to SP in the majors. There is a tiny population of guys who get put in the bullpen for a short period before getting a rotation slot full time, and many more who get stuck in the bullpen (by choice or because of management) and guys who stink once they go from the bullpen back to the bullpen.

    In the cases of Montero and deGrom, i wouldn’t touch Montero. deGrom, i would, but i would make sure he stays a middle-reliever type and not get near the setup/closer depth area so that he can switch back if needed.

  • Patrick Albanesius

    If either comes up it should be in long relief/spot start roles, but I don’t think TC will use them that way. A starter either in NY or Triple-A will be traded at some point this season, it’s just a matter of if that gets us bullpen help, or a SS.

  • Chance2

    Wasn’t there an interview on the radio  pre-came last night or the night before with a St. Louis reporter who explained  the Cardinals’ specific method for doing this? And that they do it only with pitchers that meet certain criteria? I wasn’t listening closely .

    So it would need to have been carefully planned and be carefully executed.  Young pitchers can’t be expected to be able to handle the transition themselves in a creative and intelligent way like Daisuke seems to be doing.

  • Dr. Met

    If anyone makes sense for the BP now, it’s deGrom as he is already on the 40 man roster. He’s a guy that I would try out in the BP if we really continue to stink. He has strikeout stuff and has pitched effectively this year in AAA. Montero is a guy I would only try in such a role after mid-June for arbitration purposes. With deGrom, long term I see his value to us being in the bullpen or as a trade chip. Right now I see a need in the pen, so I’d have no problem trying out deGrom in the pen in May if Familia can’t right himself by then.

    That said, I think the team will stand pat with what they have currently and hope that one of Familia/Germen/Black establishes themselves for the month of May.

    The real concern for me is finding a 2nd LHP. The team needs a solid LOOGY to lighten the load off of Rice.

    • Brian Joura

      Are you serious?

      The Mets need to get rid of the LOOGY they have, not add another one. They are 5-3 since replacing Lannan and the bullpen has a 3.18 ERA in its last 22.2 IP, so why the concern?

      The Mets need to quit worrying so much about chasing matchups and having lefties in the pen and focus on having quality pitchers. If quality pitchers throw with their left hand — that’s great. But they need to stop carrying guys just because they are LHP.

  • brian

    With the way the starters are keeping the Mets in the majority of games they can’t have guys like Valverde in the pen giving away games. He is clearly done. deGrom is the guy that should be brought up for the pen. Get him some MLB experience and he will be ready to be a starter when an injury happens. (providing they keep him stretched out enough)

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