Reports suggest that the Mets player drawing the most interest from teams as we approach the trade deadline is interim closer Addison Reed. This isn’t surprising, as contending teams seek to bolster their bullpens heading into the season’s final months. For his part, Reed is having another solid year, though not quite as impressive as his 2016. It’s more likely than not that Reed will be wearing a different jersey on August 1st, which leads to obvious questions regarding the Mets’ closer role while Jeurys Familia remains sidelined.
The most reasonable answer, based on the dearth of high-quality talent in the Mets’ bullpen, would be some form of closer by committee. Of course, reason and rationale haven’t necessarily been at the forefront of Mets personnel decision-making over the last few years. With that in mind, last night against the A’s we bore witness to what was very likely a preview of the Reed-less Mets: Jerry Blevins saving games.
That Blevins is one of Terry Collins‘ most trusted relievers is without question. Things get a bit murky when we consider that he’s deployed him more against left-handers generally, despite Blevins actually having okay (to be a tad kind) numbers against right-handed hitters over his career. Still, he’s not someone you’d expect to take on the role considering how he’s been used and his results this season. Sure, he’s been the third most valuable Mets reliever (by fWAR) behind Reed and Paul Sewald (who also merits consideration), but that value is mostly tied up in his performance against lefties. Consider his triple slash against left- and right-handed batters in 2017:
- LHB – .180/.238/.192
- RHB – .333/.489/.667
The three home runs he’s given up this season were to righties. His striking more than 10% fewer and walking almost 20% more of them. It’s not just the raw results that are damning here, either. Right-handers are hitting more line drives against him and making exceptionally harder contact against him as well (17% vs 44% hard-hit rate). The Mets’ poor defense has only played a limited role here, in case you were wondering. His xFIP against lefties in 2017 is 2.68 while it’s 6.82 against right-handers.
I like Blevins, and I’m sure I share that feeling with most fans. He’s immensely effective against southpaws and, in what may have been his first audition, looked good shutting down the A’s for a five-out save last night. He simply hasn’t shown that he can get right-handers out this season effectively enough to warrant handing him the closer’s mantle, though. The sad part is, beyond Reed, nobody else in the bullpen has shown much to warrant taking on the role either.
We may be a bit premature here. It may be that Blevins does not inherit the role if Reed is traded. It may be that the team actually does go to a closer by committee construct if he is ultimately sent packing. Of course, the counterargument would be a distrust in how Collins manages a bullpen as a whole, let alone selecting the appropriate closer on a game-by-game basis. Either way, if you thought late innings are stressful now…