A lot of times it feels like the Mets are trying to catch up to the rest of the league. At one point the trend in the game was to have power arms available in the bullpen to blow hitters away in the late innings. While other teams were loading up their pen with guys who could throw 97 mph, the Mets would trot out guys like Dana Eveland and Carlos Torres. Solid relievers, no doubt, but guys whose velocity was at least five mph slower.
Then when the club was waylaid by injuries in 2017, then GM Sandy Alderson traded off whatever assets he could, looking primarily to cut salary but also looking to stockpile righty relievers in the minors who could throw gas. Seemed like he picked up half a dozen of them and to date none of them have provided any elite innings in the majors for the Mets. Here’s a list of the guys acquired back then and what they’ve done for the club since:
Gerson Bautista – Acquired from the Red Sox in the Addison Reed deal, Bautista was the hardest thrower of the bunch. But his ability to throw 100 mph came with two other things which hurt his development. One, he had serious command/control issues which made his stuff play down, way down. And the other was that because of his potential, he was added to the 40-man before he was ready. He was already on the 40-man when the Mets acquired him. Decisions were made on his MLB usage because of his 40-man status, not his performance in the minors. He allowed 6 ER in 4.1 IP for the Mets in 2018 before he was included in the disastrous Robinson Cano following the season. He didn’t pitch well for Seattle, either, and also missed a good chunk of the year injured.
Jamie Callahan – Also acquired in the Reed deal, Callahan was thought to be the most MLB-ready pitcher of all the guys acquired at the 2017 deadline. He did come up and post a 4.05 ERA (107 ERA+) in nine games for the Mets in ’17. But the next year he was dogged by injuries and threw just a handful of innings at Triple-A all season long and was granted free agency following the 2018 campaign. He signed with the Giants, where he logged 23.1 IP across four different minor league clubs and did not distinguish himself at any of the levels he performed.
Eric Hanhold – Acquired from the Brewers in the Neil Walker deal, Hanhold moved to the bullpen in his second year in Hi-A prior to the trade and seemed to have revitalized his career. He was the player to be named later in the deal and didn’t join the Mets until the 2017 minor league season was over. But in his last 13 games, Hanhold put up a 0.96 ERA in 18.2 IP. Injuries slowed him the past two years but he did make it to Queens in 2018, where in three games he allowed 2 ER in 2.1 IP. The Mets put him on waivers following the 2019 minor league season and he was picked up by the Orioles. He’s now on Baltimore’s 60-man roster for the 2020 season.
Stephen Nogosek – The third and final player acquired in the Reed deal, Nogosek didn’t throw quite as hard as the others who came over from Boston yet still averaged 95 mph in his brief stint with the Mets last year. He allowed 8 ER in 6.2 IP for the Mets in 2019 and was outrighted to the minors after the season. Maybe there’s still time for him to provide some value but there’s got to be better wagers out there than this one.
Jacob Rhame – Acquired from the Dodgers in the Curtis Granderson deal, Rhame pitched parts of the last three seasons with the Mets. In 47.2 IP in the majors, he has a 6.23 ERA. Last year he finally was adequate but injuries cut short his time in the majors. Rhame was listed on the Mets’ original 60-man roster for 2020 but they ended up placing him on waivers, as he was out of options. He was claimed by the Angels, where he hopes to follow the Hansel Robles reclamation path.
Ryder Ryan – Received from the Indians in the Jay Bruce deal, Ryan was a converted infielder who transitioned to the mound due to a strong arm and a weak bat. He was solid last year in Double-A, putting up a respectable 3.05 ERA in 44.1 IP. But despite his 97 mph heat, he had just a 1.74 K/BB ratio in the minors last year. Ryan is still in the org but not likely at this point to become a major contributor.
Drew Smith – Acquired from the Rays in the Lucas Duda trade, Smith has had the most success of any of the righty relievers acquired in the 2017 deadline deals. In 2018, he put up a 3.54 ERA in 28 IP with the Mets. But he missed all of last year due to TJ surgery. He’s been throwing off a mound since March and the original prognosis was a mid-2020 return. He’s on the Mets’ 60-man roster but you would like his chances better if he could have gotten some minor league innings in this season. Mets fans have a positive view of Smith due to his 2018 performance, but that came with a 4.91 xFIP, so he clearly out-performed his peripherals.
Nowadays, everyone seemingly throws 95 so you have to bring more to the table than just heat. Can Smith bounce back from surgery to be a solid bullpen piece for the club? Right now, he’s their best hope. Interestingly, Rhame might have been a better choice. To be sure, there was no shortage of anti-Rhame venom coming from this space. But Rhame showed some signs last year – a 101 ERA+ – and now he’s undergone the same ulnar nerve transposition surgery that Steven Matz did in late 2017. After putting up a 68 ERA+ in 2017, Matz has made 60 starts the past two years with a 98 ERA+.
According to mets.com reporter Anthony DiComo, “multiple teams had interest in claiming Rhame.” There’s the velocity but there’s also the spin rate on both his fastball and slider, which both ranked among the game’s best in his limited action last year. There’s the belief that small adjustments may lead to big differences in results. Maybe he never would have gotten there as a member of the Mets organization. But it seems like whatever slim chance there might have been, it would have to be greater than Tyler Bashlor’s chances of having MLB success.
But Rhame was out of options while Bashlor still has one remaining.