Mets’ 2020 pen should prioritize Wilmer Fonts over Tyler Bashlors

It’s been well documented that Noah Syndergaard preferred to pitch to Tomas Nido rather than Wilson Ramos. But there’s a pitcher who had an even better case than Syndergaard to prefer Nido. Ex-Met Wilmer Font had a 1.107 OPS allowed and a 7.27 ERA with Ramos behind the plate, compared to a .472 OPS and a 1.98 ERA with Nido. With Ramos calling the pitches, Font surrendered 7 HR in 17.1 IP and with Nido, the numbers were 1 HR in 13.2 IP.

It’s a whole lot easier to pair a certain catcher with a starting pitcher than it is to do the same with a reliever. And a dominating performance from a starter is worth so much more than the same with a reliever. Still, one wonders if the Mets’ brass gave any consideration to these splits before cutting ties with Font. Actually, it’s fair to wonder why the Mets moved on so quickly from Font when they gave other guys a much longer leash.

This is clearly a time where being an outsider has its limitations. Perhaps Font had some clause in his contract that made keeping him problematic. Maybe he was a bad influence in the clubhouse. Shoot, it could be that he made a pass at Brodie Van Wagenen’s wife. Or even worse, maybe it was Van Wagenen himself.

Still, from a distance it seemed odd that the Mets cut ties with Font after giving up a player to get him. And maybe that’s the explanation. They gave up a player to get him and got cash when he landed with the Blue Jays.

Font had a 4.94 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP in his 15 games with the Mets. Certainly those numbers were nothing to get excited about and hardly a reason to demand that he stay. Still, his relief numbers were even better, as he posted a 3.48 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP in 20.2 innings. Essentially, there was no time during the 2019 season that the Mets should have turned up their nose at a reliever with those numbers.

The average Mets reliever in 2019 had a 4.99 ERA and a 1.432 WHIP.

What Font gave the club was miles better than what it received from the two high-profile relievers they added in the offseason. But it goes beyond that. Outside of Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo, Font had the best reliever ERA of any guy who pitched at least two innings out of the pen and his WHIP was better than anyone with at least 2 IP in relief other than Lugo and Paul Sewald.

The Mets seemingly have no faith whatsoever in their hitting prospects yet somehow believe prosperity for their minor league relievers is a near-certainty, despite all evidence to the contrary. Pick any collection of their relievers that spent some time in the minors during their career in the organization and then look what they did in the majors last year.

Going alphabetically, Tyler Bashlor, Chris Flexen and Drew Gagnon combined to allow 44 ER in 55 IP for a 7.20 ERA. They’re all still here. Robert Gsellman, Chris Mazza and Stephen Nogosek combined to allow 51 ER in 86.2 IP for a 5.30 ERA. They’re all still here. Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame and Sewald combined for 22 ER in 32.2 IP for a 6.06 ERA. Yep, you guessed it, they’re all still here.

It’s hard to believe that Font isn’t better than at least one of those nine guys.

After joining the Blue Jays, Font ended the year with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.144 WHIP in 39.1 IP, essentially the same thing he did out of the pen with the Mets. Toronto utilized him as an opener 14 times in his 23 appearances, but he never went more than two innings in any of those starts.

Ask anyone what the Mets need to do to improve in 2020 and the likely first thing out of their mouth is to say – fix the pen. Perhaps the best way to fix the pen is to stop insisting that guys in their system who throw hard, like Bashlor and Rhame, are future bullpen stalwarts when all they do is serve up meatballs year after year.

Font’s gone and he’s not coming back. But what about Brad Brach? He had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.227 WHIP in his time with the Mets last year. Once an All-Star reliever with the Orioles – and a guy the Mets tried to trade Jay Bruce for – Brach signed a one-year deal with the Cubs last year that contained an option. It was a $5 million club option and a $1.35 million player option. Cot’s lists the $1.35 million as a 2020 expense for the Mets.

To the best of my knowledge, there’s been no talk about if that option is still in place. But if it was, and Brach elects to use it, that’s something the Mets should embrace. It would be worth $1.35 million just for the relief of not having to see Bashlor and/or Rhame enter a game next season.

24 comments for “Mets’ 2020 pen should prioritize Wilmer Fonts over Tyler Bashlors

  1. Rob Stolzer
    October 9, 2019 at 11:08 am

    “The Mets seemingly have no faith whatsoever in their hitting prospects yet somehow believe prosperity for their minor league relievers is a near-certainty, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

    That’s a weird and untrue statement. Have you seen how many former hitting prospects are on the major league roster?

    • October 9, 2019 at 11:22 am

      It’s very easy to point to first-round picks and multi-million dollar int’l signings.

      But this is also the team that imported stiffs like James Loney, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Panik rather than give guys from their minor league system a shot. When push comes to shove, this org will look to import a hitter who was good on another team three years ago rather than give a guy they developed first crack. It’s why they’re stuck with Robinson Cano at 2B rather than simply put Jeff McNeil there and spend that $20 million a year elsewhere.

      • Rob
        October 9, 2019 at 1:09 pm

        I remember allan dyksta when they had duda in outfield and no first baseman. Tearing up minors and curious why he never even got a shot at the time.

      • Rob Stolzer
        October 9, 2019 at 1:25 pm

        It’s also easy to cherry-pick transactions. Sure, we would all like to have a do-over on the Cano-Diaz trade, but no one knew that Diaz would be so god-awful. We all expected a top-notch closer.

        Alonso was a second round pick, we picked up a guy who we thought might be a stiff in JD Davis, have an international signing in Rosario, so on and so on. You make it sound as if our minor leagues have been packed with talent. That’s not true, as we’ve seen with the countless AAAA outfielders brought up over the years who have stuck with no one. I’m thrilled to see so many position players who were brought up through the system and don’t dwell on the misfires. Every team has them. Mets fans seem to magnify them on our own team.

        And for the record, calling Panik a stiff seems a bit much. He’s a good to decent player who cost of nothing. You don’t think that’s worth a flyer when you’re in the middle of a pennant race?

        • October 9, 2019 at 4:21 pm

          Joe Panik had a .627 OPS and was released by a club that was also in the hunt for the Wild Card. But rather than giving a shot to a guy in the minors who played the same position, they opted to go outside the system to get a guy who was good three years ago. Like they do repeatedly.

  2. Name
    October 9, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    The only difference between Font and the guys you mentioned above was that they either had options or they were DFAed and no one bothered to pick them up.

    The 4.94 ERA he posted came with a .238 BABIP.
    His FIP was a 6.47 during the Mets
    In his last 5 games with the Mets he was roughed up in 3 of them for a 8.22 ERA.
    His time with the Mets he posted an alamingly low 7k/9 rate.
    His major league track record was unimpressive

    I don’t see any compelling reason why he should have been treated any differently than the 10ish guys you mentioned above.

    • October 9, 2019 at 4:38 pm

      With Font they overreacted to back-to-back bad appearances, very much like they did a few years earlier with Alex Torres. About 95% of relievers go through bad stretches during a season. Seth Lugo gave up 7 ER in three appearances and he had a pretty good year.

      What’s more indicative of the nature of the reliever — what he does when he’s struggling or what he does the rest of the year? Before his last two outings, Font had a 2.20 ERA as a reliever for the Mets. From May 25, when the Mets put him in the pen, to the end of the season, including those bad outings, Font had a 3.60 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP in 60 IP.

      The Mets could have used that in their pen. Instead they pissed it away.

      • Name
        October 9, 2019 at 8:22 pm

        Sure, they could have used that in their pen. By the same logic, they also could have used the stats that Hansel Robles put up with the Angels this year, but we all know there was little chance he could have done that with the Mets had he stayed.

        Take out Font’s last 2 outings as a Met and he still had a 4.39 ERA (with a .233 BABIP) and 6+ FIP.
        Credit someone in the Blue Jays org for turning him around and getting him to miss a lot more bats, but there’s nothing to suggest he was going to sustain an ERA in the 3s had he stayed with the Mets

        Citing Font’s 2.20 ERA over a month’s of work is about as foolish as believing in Drew Gagnon because he had 3.09 ERA from April 30-June 1st.

        • October 9, 2019 at 8:35 pm

          He was only on the team for two months and I’m happy to use his bullpen ERA, cited in TFA, which was the overwhelming amount of time he was on the club, nearly 7 weeks. The Mets overreacted to two games.

          So, he had an ERA in the 3s as a reliever for the Mets, had an ERA in the 3s on the Blue Jays but somehow we’re supposed to believe that he wasn’t going to continue to put up that ERA if he stayed in NY? I don’t believe that.

  3. Rob Stolzer
    October 9, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Going with a guy who has playoff experience, who costs next-to-nothing, and may be lightning in a bottle doesn’t seem like a bad move to me. I like Guillorme a lot and maybe he deserves the shot that Panik received, but he hasn’t shown that he can hit yet, though he did better this past season. In the end, the examples you’re using are the 23rd, 24th and 25th players on the roster. I don’t sweat those players as much as say, the top 15.

    • October 9, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      Panik, cut by a team in the WC chase, made 18 starts in 23 games.
      Gonzalez made 43 starts in 54 games
      Loney started 88 of his 100 games.

      These were not end of the roster guys.

  4. Rob Stolzer
    October 9, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    The Mets had an injury to Cano, so yes, Panik filled in while he was out. McNeil was seeing most of his time in the outfield.

    Gonzalez and Loney did not work out. What minor league options were available to them at the time? Dom Smith wasn’t hitting a lick yet. Who else. I really think you’re grasping at straws here. The Mets have always had thin times when they’re reaching for players. Once Duda was gone, they did not have a good internal replacement. And seeing Brodie give Alonso a full year in the majors, where Alderson would have likely held him back for a few years, shows me that the current GM will put his best players on the field. If one of the minor league middle infielders were ready to come up, I think he would have brought them up instead of signing Panik, but those guys are likely a year and more out.

    I’m actually quite excited for some of the position players the Mets have in their system, notably the infielders. It will present a good problem to have in the future.

    • October 9, 2019 at 7:03 pm

      Grasping at straws – and often paying above minimum wage to do so – is actually a very good description of the Mets’ never-ending chase to use washed-up veterans who were good on another club three years ago

      Panik, Cano, Gonzalez, re-signing Jay Bruce in 2018, Aoki, Loney, Reyes, Cuddyer, Mayberry, De Aza, Young, Abreu, Ankiel, Torres — The Mets sure got a lot of bang for their buck in these moves.

      You’ve got to give young guys a chance. And a chance means the type of shot Loney or Gonzalez got, not playing six times in 14 days and then being sent to the minors if you’re not hitting .300

      Was there a future stud available in the minors for all 14 guys listed above? Of course not. But you can’t make “stud” the minimum acceptable standard for a minor leaguer to be used. And what McNeil did in 2018 wasn’t enough to keep them from bringing in a veteran and Nimmo wouldn’t have gotten a shot in 2018 after they re-signed Bruce if it wasn’t for a truckload of injuries. Even Conforto met resistance and needed injuries to get a full shot.

      Dilson Herrera had an .869 OPS with a .289 BABIP when they signed Panik. There was no reason to go dumpster diving for a guy that a team chasing the playoffs decided wasn’t good enough when they had Herrera available. Panik did better than they had any right to expect. And so what? He was still below average for his position and he’s about to be non-tendered. If Herrera did better than they had any right to expect, he’d be on the 2020 roster as a minimum wage backup or be used as a trade chit.

      The Mets keep hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with these veterans and it just about never happens. But the implication is that they do it because you can’t trust rookies. Sounds ok in theory but trusting veterans has blown up in their face again and again and again. At least the rookies wouldn’t cost them much if they stunk.

      • Chris F
        October 11, 2019 at 9:15 am

        The problem here is pretty simple. Every year, regardless of the situation, Jeff and the FO some how believe the team is “in this” and so instead of saying “we need to see if Guillorme can actually play in the Show” and then put him out there to succeed or fail on his own accord, the decision is “look, we’re really pretty close to ‘in this’ and I think with a couple less blown saves and a tilt to our side in a few more 1-run games, we really ‘are’ in this. The pythgorean record says so. So, we dont have time to develop players at the ML level. We need competent, proven, guys with a track record of success. Sure, they may be on the long tail of stats, but still have baseball smarts and a memory of success to draw on. Lets fill this spot with __________ (insert 34+ yo player name here). Our goal is winning games period and thats the safest move.”

        As a result, we have seen endless failure to develop young talent, even at a time when this is clearly important in preference to trusting the system. Maybe there should be no trust in the system, but every year I see these decisions all I imagine is “win now” with aging vets that have played well elsewhere. It rarely is a plus for the team, and has left a net loss to the pipeline.

        Press the panic button, we have to win now! Sign A-Gon!!! Trade for Cano!!

        • October 11, 2019 at 9:53 am

          Chris, while what you wrote is true, I think it goes beyond that. I think it’s an organization-wide mistrust of rookies, regardless of the situation.

          The Mets were 58-75 when they signed the twice-released Nori Aoki in 2017 and proceeded to play him every day in September.

          The Mets were 62-72 at the end of August in 2013 when they signed both Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka off the scrap heap rather than use a rookie pitcher.

          This goes beyond favoring a veteran when you think you have a chance. Hopes were long gone in these instances.

          • Chris F
            October 11, 2019 at 10:12 am

            Right you are. I guess I would amend my statement to include the following. TC said it all the time: we need to win games. Thats the most important thing…even 20 under .500, when the season is a complete farce, that was the word from above. So instead of saying, ya know, we dont really need Bobby Abreu, how about we see who here can play this game and let it happen.

            Ive said it for years. Those wins are worthless by-and-large. Its not clear adding a vet facing extinction really helped the team anyway. But the (misguided) ferocity that the management shows in dire times for every win points to a team out of touch with reality. Call it a rebuild, call it what ever, but when a team is not good (e.g., most of the Alderson era), that was a time to see if the kids can play.

            Ownership is so lost in back-page coverage and believing it is “this close” to winning that it repeatedly has bitten its own nose off to save its face.

            As a side note. When I went to the 69 reunion game this summer, ahead of the parade came Jeff in his chauffered blacked out Merc or what ever at the players entrance by the chop shops. A pretty big crowd was already assembled for the parade, so the entrance was blocked. As soon as people could see it was Wilpon, hundreds of fans started chanting “sell the team, sell the team”. With so many people t was impossible for the car to do more than creep inch by inch. The fans are not fooled.

  5. TexasGusCC
    October 10, 2019 at 12:38 am

    I don’t know where else to park this, so:

    How awesome was it to see Kendrick’s grand slam in the 10th inning and then… See Roberts – the smug, wise guy manager – bring in Kanley Jansen after the grand slam. Way to save him for next year Davey!!!

  6. José
    October 10, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Despite my enormous respect for that Name cus, I’m gonna hafta side with Brian on this one, if not entirely in the specific on Font, then certainly in the general concerning all that desiccated flesh they brought in long passed expected shelf life.

    Still, it’s always a thrill to watch them two slug it out – Mets360’s version of Clash Of The Titans

    Also, despite my chronic case of Wilponitis, I must admit to nearly cracking a smile upon the ousting of MC. Isn’t anyone gonna write an article about who they should hire?

  7. October 10, 2019 at 8:00 am

    The Dodgers just lost last night and ruined an amazing season by mismanaging their BP. Mickey did same this season for the Mets and probably cost them about 5 games minimum which would have meant playoffs for the blue and orange. Starting over fresh, the Mets BP cannot have these AA and AAA types in key spots. These “squadron of scrubs” make me turn away every time they come into the game. They are just not major leaguers. Ya’ll know the names: Bashlor, Gagnon, Rahme, Nogoshek, Maaza, Zamora, Flexin, Lockett, Sewald, Oswalt.. man o man this is an endless terrible list and they all hurt the team badly in 2019 and cannot be on the ML roster this year, please! Let’s start with Lugo, Wilson, Avilan, Gsellman and get three new arms, maybe W.Smith from SF, G.Holland, and maybe D. Smith is back ready, if not, find someone else and also get rid of Familia and Diaz.
    The dearth of good relievers will have some team take a flyer on those two and Mets should jump at the chance. Those two were so bad that the others mentioned before had to come in and blow games if both Familia and Diaz already hadn’t done the favor.
    A good BP in 2020 and Mets win 95 games – write it down.

  8. boomboom
    October 10, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Why would it be “even worse” if Font had made a pass at Brodie rather than his wife? I know this was tongue in cheek, but, also, well, pretty insensitive.

  9. Eraff
    October 11, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Of all the Criticism of MC, “Mismanaging The Bullpen” is one I won’t fully Understand. There’s no doubt in my mind that “Who’s Gonna Pitch in the 9th Inning” is a “Corporate Decision” in 2019, throughout baseball. I doubt that the Pitching Decisions were “Manager Decisons”—certainly not the Back End Game Finishing choices.

    “The average Mets reliever in 2019 had a 4.99 ERA and a 1.432 WHIP”, per Brian’s Post. That’s not Chicken Liver…it’s Chicken Shit.

  10. MattyMets
    October 11, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Brian, excellent point about the outsider’s view of how long a player’s leash is. That has intrigued me for years. Every year there’s one guy that seems to hang on far beyond his expiration date – Keon Broxton this year, Jose Reyes last year – and a guy who gets released prematurely for inexplicable reasons – often a guy who finds success elsewhere. I too liked what I saw of Font a lot more than what some of the other arms showed us. Sometimes decisions involve things we don’t see on TV or in the stats columns. Maybe a guy has a bristly personality that rubs people the wrong way for instance.

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