The Mets are going to have to bolster their bullpen if they are going to make any noise in 2019. The relief corps posted a collective ERA of 4.96 in 2018, 28th in the Majors, and surrendered 82 homers, tied for 26th. One addition could be a blast from the past, namely 29 year old Jenrry Mejia.
Mejia could be considered sort of an in-house candidate for a relief slot, or really more like an in-doghouse candidate. After a pretty good 2014 with the Mets, Mejia has only pitched in seven MLB games, all in 2015. This was due to three different positive tests for banned steroids, the last of which resulted in a lifetime suspension from MLB ball in February of 2016.
However Mejia showed enough contrition that back in July of this year MLB announced he would be conditionally reinstated in time for Spring training in 2019. That “condition” for reinstatement means there will be lots of drug tests, and he better pass them all with flying colors if he wants to have any chance of staying in the big leagues.
As noted before, his last full season was 2014, that year he was the closer of the Mets’ staff. His stats were good, not great. He racked up 28 saves in 93.2 IP that year, with an ERA of 3.65 and a FIP of 3.73. He struck out a little more than a batter an inning, but he did yield nearly four walks per nine innings, a kind of high figure.
He was quite good in his abbreviated 2015, pitching 7.1 innings in seven games, allowing no earned runs. Then the failed steroid tests started coming, resulting in the involuntary hiatus for Mejia.
Like most pitchers, especially relievers, the fastball is his main pitch. According to FanGraphs he threw the heater 57.5% of the time in 2014, with an average velocity of 93.4 MPH. A few decades ago that velocity would have impressed, but it is only ordinary nowadays for MLB relievers. He probably does get pretty good movement on his fastball. His assortment of pitches includes sliders, curves and changeups.
Of course the big question is how well he would rebound after being away from the game for such an extended period. You would have to go back a long way to find any similar situations. Perhaps one comparable situation would be the suspension of Sal Maglie for playing in the Mexican League in 1946, resulting in him and other players being suspended for the rest of the 40’s. For what it’s worth he actually pitched better when he returned to the New York Giants in 1950, winning the ERA crown that year and going on to have a very successful career.
Mejia did get to pitch a bit in the minors on a rehab assignment in 2018, just seven innings but he did not yield a run during that stretch.
Mejia comes with baggage, obviously, but he is not going to command a real high salary. For a team like the Mets who need an upgrade in their bullpen corps, Mejia could prove to be a useful and affordable bullpen option.