The Mets moved quickly and decisively to address their bullpen at the Winter Meetings, adding relievers Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch. Earlier, Sandy Alderson indicated that picking up a closer was a top priority and it would not be a surprise if all three of the new relievers were given a chance to pick up a save at some point in the 2012 season.
So, the bullpen looks to be fortified by these moves. It also looks to be very crowded. In addition to those three, the Mets have six other relievers under contract who have a reason to feel like they should be part of the club’s 2012 bullpen. And that does not even take into account guys like Miguel Batista, Taylor Buchholz and Jason Isringhausen – guys who are not on the roster but ones the club has expressed some interest in retaining.
Let’s take a look at those other six who will likely be vying for the final four spots in the bullpen.
Manny Acosta – He did not pitch as well as he did in 2010 but Acosta still had a strong showing when the Mets finally gave him a chance. He went 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.383 WHIP. While his ERA and WHIP were higher than in 2010, Acosta upped his K/BB ratio to a career-best 3.07 last year. However, the overall numbers are a bit misleading. Acosta was brutal in his first seven appearances (11.05 ERA with 4 HR allowed in 7.1 IP) but over his final 37 games he had a 2.04 ERA with only 2 HR allowed in 39.2 IP. Without a doubt, Acosta should be part of the 2012 bullpen. But you could have said the same thing this time last year and he did not make the club out of Spring Training.
Pedro Beato – It was this time last year that the Mets acquired Beato and they kept their 2010 Rule 5 pick in the majors for all of last season. It was an up-and-down year for Beato, who looked like a great addition in the early part of the season but was then derailed by injuries and the league catching up to him. Beato led the team’s relievers last year with 67 IP but will likely start 2012 in the minors. Wherever he ends up, let’s hope the Mets continue to use him as a relief pitcher. At the end of last season, there was talk about moving Beato into the rotation. A failed starter in the minors, the odds against Beato re-converting to a successful starting pitcher in the majors are so ridiculously high that they make a casino owner blush.
Tim Byrdak – One of last year’s bargain basement finds, Byrdak turned in a strong season in 2010 and was rewarded with a new deal by Alderson. At least some of the credit for Byrdak’s season needs to go to Terry Collins, who after doing a poor job early in the year, did a fantastic job of limiting Byrdak’s exposure to RHB. The average LOOGY will face an equal number of LHB and RHB but Byrdak last year had 65 percent of his PA versus lefty batters. Byrdak limited LHB to a .604 OPS but against righties that number jumped to .857 last year. He’s a near-lock to make the Opening Day roster.
D.J. Carrasco – Another Alderson pickup from a year ago, this one did not work out quite so well. After three straight seasons of delivering an ERA under 4.00, Carrasco turned in a 6.02 mark in 49.1 innings last year. The only thing keeping Carrasco in the picture right now is the fact he signed a two-year contract last year. Still, he’s likely to start the season in the minors, unless he gets a hold of the incriminating photos that Blaine Boyer used during Spring Training last year to make the Opening Day roster.
Danny Herrera – In 16 games with the Mets last year, Herrera faced 33 batters, which obviously makes him a lefty pitcher. Only seven of those 33 batters reached base, which gave Herrerra a nifty 1.125 WHIP and a 1.13 ERA. Last year, Collins indicated a preference for having multiple lefties in the bullpen. But none of the lefty candidates really stepped up in Spring Training so only Byrdak made the Opening Day roster. A bullpen job should be his for the taking, so if Herrera has a strong Grapefruit League season, expect to see him go north with the team.
Bobby Parnell – The homegrown kid who throws 100 mph, the talk this time last year was that Parnell was a future closer. After Isringhausen notched his 300th career save, Parnell was given a shot to be the team’s closer and his performance in that role led Alderson to declare the back of the bullpen to be the team’s biggest need. Right now, Parnell is no better than fourth in the pecking order and rumors are that the Mets shopped him during the Winter Meetings. It’s too early to give up on him but both the team and the fans need to accept that while he throws hard, he’s extremely hittable and he walks too many batters. The end result is a ton of baserunners despite the huge strikeout numbers.
It’s not impossible for the Mets to make additional bullpen moves before pitchers and catchers report. Also, expect 40-man roster guys Robert Carson and Josh Stinson to get a long look in Spring Training. Keep in mind that the Mets used 16 different relievers last year. So, even if your favorite dark horse does not make the Opening Day roster, there’s still an excellent chance he’ll be up at some point during the season.