The decision to pick up Jerry Blevins’ option

They say a man will gladly pay $2 for a $1 item he needs while a woman will gladly pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn’t need. In Mets-related news, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that New York will pick up its option on Jerry Blevins and its still debating whether to do the same with Asdrubal Cabrera.

Blevins was very good last year. While he had his highest WHIP since 2010, he set a career-best with a 12.7 K/9 and his 2.94 ERA was the second-best on the club among the 29 pitchers who appeared in a game for the Mets last season. However, it remains a quality vs. quantity question with Blevins. No one doubts the quality he provided. But he needed 75 games to amass 49 IP, which tied for 11th on the club, despite being healthy and on the roster all year long in a season where only Jacob deGrom could make the same claim among Mets pitchers.

There’s a sliver of hope that the club’s insistence on playing matchups will decrease with a new manager and that Blevins will go longer in his appearances in 2018. And it should absolutely be stated for the record that Blevins has never publicly asked for a specialist role. My doubts regarding the usefulness of Blevins and his $7 million salary are tied to his previous usage pattern and not his willingness – and to a lesser extent, his ability – to pitch in a regular relief role.

In 2017, Mets relievers tallied 569 IP. If we divide that by seven, the number of pitchers in a standard bullpen these days, you get each relief spot responsible for 81.1 IP. That leaves Blevins producing a 32.1 innings shortfall that the club’s other relievers need to carry. Of course, it’s not so neat and tidy. At times last year, the Mets had an eight-man pen. And there’s also the entire month of September when the bullpen has double-digit members. Plus, looking forward, the hope is that the club’s starters will go deeper in the game and that will lessen the load on the pen.

From a free market perspective, Blevins’ salary is not outrageous. If Brett Cecil is worth $7.75 million, it’s hard to say that Blevins shouldn’t pull down $7 million. But do we want to point to the highest contract and say Player X is the standard by which all others should be paid? And on top of that, should the Mets allocate that much money to a guy who pitches as a specialist?

While not necessarily a buyer’s market, there are several lefty relievers who will be free agents this year. MLBTR lists 10 players who absolutely will be available, including Fernando Abad, Jake McGee and Tony Watson. And there are three other pitchers besides Blevins who have an option of one sort or another who could be available, too. How much of a premium should the Mets pay for the “known” factor of Blevins over someone like Watson?

If the Mets needed to get 150 fewer innings from their pen, it would be a slam dunk decision to bring Blevins back and utilize him primarily as a specialist. But how many innings will the team’s pen need to give and what kind of role will Blevins have in 2018? Also, what’s the makeup of the other relievers in the pen and what’s their ability to soak up extra innings? The team should also be prepared for what happens if guys who are thought to be in the bullpen need to move to the rotation if/when starters get hurt. Finally, is it a wise allocation of resources to devote five percent of payroll to a guy who is the club’s third-best reliever and who likely won’t crack 60 innings pitched?

There’s an awful lot of factors at play here and it’s far from an easy decision for the front office to make. So it’s at least a little curious that the club appears to have made up its mind on Blevins but has not done the same with Cabrera, who would likely have a much bigger role on the club for a similar salary. Heyman indicated the Mets were leaning towards bringing Cabrera back and my expectation is that we’ll see both guys on the club in 2018. But it would be illuminating to know what makes Cabrera a tougher decision than Blevins.

16 comments for “The decision to pick up Jerry Blevins’ option

  1. Metsense
    October 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    There are twelve potential free agent relief pitchers that had a sub 3.00 ERA pitched 40+ innings in 2017 of which ten of them earned less than $7 mm in 2017. Of the ten, only two or three should exceed Blevins $7mm annual salary in 2018. Blevins had a 993 OPS vs RHB and an excellent 455 OPS vs LHB in 2017. For his career he has a 743 OPS vs RHB and 567 OPS vs LHB. If the new manager were to expand Blevin’s role then he should become a more average relief pitcher and not as effective. Maybe the money should be spent on other relievers instead. AJ Ramos is projected to earn in excess of $ 9 mm in arbitration and that also seems rather expensive. Maybe the route Sandy should take is to reapportion Blevins and Ramos’ salaries into three or four new relievers. The market is ripe for the picking.

    • October 22, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      I think it’s a reasonable question to ask if it’s worth spending roughly $25 million for Familia-Ramos-Blevins. Last year they budgeted roughly $20 million for Familia-Reed-Blevins and my guess is that everyone thinks Reed is better than Ramos and everyone thinks payroll is going down.

  2. Fletcher Rabbit
    October 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    why Blevins yes and Cabrera no? its simple; there is no in house alternative to Blevins, but for Cabrera the team can readily slot in Jose Reyes, and most likely for less money. now frankly, i think they will be better off keeping both middle infielders, each of whom can give between 300 and 500 at bats, depending on how the rest of the roster develops. hey, be honest — this team aint gonna win 95 games next year, and theres going to be a load of “developing”, especially with a new skipper in place. lets go mets, and lets just bask in the pleasure of the yankees loss last night!

  3. TexasGusCC
    October 22, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    I couldn’t get passed the first sentence of this heartbreaking article. I learned that I sometimes shop like a woman. How do I fix this?

    • October 22, 2017 at 11:32 pm

      Sorry, I don’t have the contact number for Bruce Jenner’s doctor.

      • TexasGusCC
        October 23, 2017 at 9:06 am

        I knew someone was going to say that, but wasn’t sure who. LOL, now I have to puke, too.

  4. TJ
    October 22, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    This article brings up excellent points, however, I see this decision as rather straightforward. I will admit that this is partly due to being naive and/or foolishly counting on the Wilpons to fund the payroll properly in order to field a playoff caliber team in 2018.

    I see Blevins as an elite lefty specialist. The Mets need an elite pen in order to have any playoff shot in 2018. I don’t want Blevins to face more RHB, that should be left to other bullpen assets. I’d like to see the Mets spend on another closing capable reliever (a Reed or McGee type) and fill out the pen with the power arm starters that don’t make the rotation. In this model, Blevins would continue in his mostly-specialist role. Now, the pen will be pricey, since the FA pitcher will require a multi-year deal that will likely average double digits, but this imported player will be the only pen arm with a commitment beyond 2018, which allows for plenty of flexibility going forward.

  5. MattyMets
    October 23, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Since you put it that way… Some excellent points about relative salary. On the surface, it’s a no brainer to pick up the option. Blevins has been effective, fills a need with no inhouse replacement (try as they might, Smoker and Edgin have yet to prove they really belong), and is also a really likable guy. But if we dig deeper (thank you, Mets360) should a team with limited payroll coming off a terrible year be paying that much for it’s #2 setup man? My thought is to not only bring him back but also gat another one of him like Watson or McGee, but how does that shape up the payroll?

    With Cabrera, is there a deadline for picking up or decking his option? I wouldn’t want to keep him hanging too long, but it might help to wait it out a bit and first see if we can do better via FA or trade.

    • TexasGusCC
      October 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Matt, usually options need to be exercised no later than five days after the World Series ends. I would expect the Mets to want to talk about Cabrera with the new manager. Cabrera wasn’t too friendly once the youth started coming in, and I wonder if he’s going to make the cut. Being the only legitimate option at 3B helps him, but he’s not a slam dunk.

      If the Mets had another option, he would certainly be gone. But, no one would touch him in August and probably not sign him to the $6MM he would need to cover the difference of his 2018 salary. There was a report in mid-Septemer that he was nervous about his option being picked up, and with good reason. But, he wisely just played and kept his mouth shut in September. Did you see him taking off any helmets? LOL, no. He wasn’t happy being pushed aside. Not a leader, for sure.

    • October 23, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Unless the contract specifies a different date, the deadline is five days after the end of the World Series to make the call on those options.

  6. Eraff
    October 23, 2017 at 11:17 am

    After complaining about the over specialized use of Blevins, is the position here that he may not be effective in Non-specialized usage (that would raise his innings pitched) ?

    It’s a valid concern, based on last year’s splits…. 993 ops for rhb. However, some of his past seasons were very different— in 2013 it was Flipped, with RHB at 581 OPS versus 741 for lefties.

    Obviously, Blevins “re-made” himself as a Loogy……. how effectively can he retrace his steps to a more balanced effectiveness that would allow him to pitch to more batters???

    • October 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      My position is that he won’t be as effective in 1-2 inning stints as he was in 1-3 batters faced stints. I still think he has a chance to be a useful reliever but I believe it’s hard to justify his salary.

      • Jimmy P
        October 23, 2017 at 1:05 pm

        I thought Blevins was an obvious guy to trade because he could clearly be of value to a playoff-contending team and still came with an option year.

        But as we know, Sandy only traded guys in their final year and kept anyone with an option.

        He also rarely uses the non-tender option, which was so maddening with guys like Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada.

        One of the only ML guys I can think of that Sandy non-tendered was Justin Turner.

        By keeping Blevins, Sandy seems to be signaling that he really does hope to compete in 2018. But if money is tight as suspected — Sandy seems to be preparing us for that reality — keeping Blevins was an odd expense.

        • October 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm

          Here’s the non-tender list by Alderson that I put together earlier:

          John Maine
          Sean Green
          Chris Carter
          Manny Acosta
          Mike Baxter
          Ronny Paulino
          Mike Pelfrey
          Ramon Ramirez
          Andres Torres
          Scott Atchison
          Jeremy Hefner
          Omar Quintanilla
          Justin Turner
          Jordany Valdespin
          Eric Young Jr.

          • Jimmy P
            October 23, 2017 at 7:29 pm

            A lot of those guys strike me as obvious releases, without any future in MLB. He doesn’t do a lot of the JT type non-tender, where he just feels the players isn’t worth that kind of money or spot. EY is a good comp, though. I mean, no one on this earth wanted Omar Quintanilla or Atchison or Hefner, etc., for a variety of reasons.

  7. TJ
    October 23, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    If we are going to worry about payroll allocation, A J Ramos (with a 5+ BB/9 over the last two seasons) being allotted $9 million concerns me more than Blevins being allotted $7 million.

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