The Mets spent nearly $30 million on the four guys they thought would do the heavy lifting in their bullpen this year. Three of those guys have been disappointments or disasters and the fourth was just traded. Jeurys Familia leaves the Mets as the team’s holder of the single-season record for Saves with 51. He also leaves as the guy who blew the Wild Card game in 2016 and who had a poor World Series in 2015, even if he was mismanaged in that series.
In the immediate sense, the big question is who the team’s closer becomes now that Familia is gone. The first unofficial chance, since Familia was still in uniform, went to Robert Gsellman, who picked up his fifth Save of the season. It seems likely that Gsellman gets his shots and he’d probably do fine in that role. The issue is that the team counts on Gsellman to go multiple innings. Can they utilize him in that way if he’s also going to be the closer?
You could argue that the Mets don’t win often enough to worry about the need for a closer on back-to-back days. The more likely scenario is that Mickey Callaway will put into action the idea he floated in Spring Training – that multiple people will get a chance to close out games. Initially, many of us thought that meant AJ Ramos would work the ninth inning some, with an occasional Jerry Blevins appearance if the ninth featured a couple of lefty batters. But now Ramos is done for the year and the idea of using Blevins in a high-leverage spot is less than appealing.
So, who closes if not Gsellman? You have to figure that Seth Lugo will get some chances, too. But the same issues that apply to Gsellman will be in play here, as well. Anthony Swarzak has been horrible and Jacob Rhame hasn’t been much better. Tim Peterson has his fans because he works quickly and doesn’t walk guys. Those are two great traits but he’s nobody’s idea of a closer. A dark horse candidate will be Tyler Bashlor, who has the big fastball and who also has spent more time than the others as a closer in the minors.
When MLB instituted their current draft rules prior to the 2012 Draft, the Mets went cheap in the top of the draft to spend more in the double-digit rounds. It was a backwards way of doing things that they abandoned after two seasons. But in 2013, they gave a bonus $450,000 over slot to Bashlor, their 11th-round pick. Bashlor had a big arm and in his draft season, he fanned 18 in 15.2 IP for Kingsport.
Unfortunately, Bashlor needed TJ surgery and missed the next two years. He’s been working his way back ever since. In 2017, he took over as the closer for St. Lucie mid-year and got a late-season promotion to Double-A. This year he returned to that level and was the closer for an underwhelming Binghamton team which didn’t give him a ton of chances to rack up Saves. But he posted an 11.25 K/9 and allowed just two homers in 24 IP.
In the majors this year, Bashlor has averaged nearly 96 mph with his fastball, which is his main pitch. He also has a little slider and will occasionally toss in a change. In his brief 9 IP in the majors, he’s recorded just 5 Ks. He’ll need to do better in amassing strikeouts if he hopes to succeed.
Meanwhile, in a bigger picture sense, the loss of Familia means that the Mets will be getting that much less from their international signees, which was supposed to have been a strength for the once departed but now back Omar Minaya. The Mets picked up $1 million for international signings in the Familia deal, which may end up the biggest part of their haul. Here’s what Kristie Ackert of the Daily News said about the deal:
Most importantly, the Mets picked up $1 million to spend on international signings. That was an area they targeted for improvement last winter when they brought back Omar Minaya.
“The Mets have been aggressive internationally the last two years,” said Minaya in a statement released by the team. “This extra bonus pool money will be extremely helpful in acquiring potential top flight talent.”
The myth of Minaya hitting a home run in international signings while GM for the Mets far outstrips reality and the idea that he’s the guy to be running things in this area needs further scrutiny by the mainstream. While he spent considerable money and signed some at the time big names, the reality is that his success stories were Familia and Wilmer Flores, who’s yet to really carve out a full-time role for himself. Maybe Jenrry Mejia comes back next year to add to Minaya’s legacy in this regard.
So, the Mets have to figure out how to build a bullpen, a task they’ve failed at miserably for most of the last decade. Perhaps a new GM from outside the organization will come in and have success where his two predecessors did not. And the new GM will have to continue to build on the international pipeline that has seemingly taken a big step forward in the past four years.
Familia and Mejia, the last two closers for the Mets, were failed starters and international signees. Perhaps the way to build a pen is not to go out and spend money on free agents or acquire bullpen salaries from other teams. Perhaps the bullpen needs to be comprised of guys from your system, whether from the draft or international guys, who begin their careers as starters and move to the bullpen out of necessity.