Which relievers will be on Mets’ Opening Day roster?

The Mets have very few positions up for grabs this Spring. The bullpen is one place where jobs were available and the situation only got more confusing with the injury to Tim Byrdak. Since then we have found out that the Mets consider C.J. Nitkowski, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2005, as a candidate to get LHB out in the majors but that Danny Herrera, who has a lifetime .588 OPS against lefties, is not.

Further complicating the issue is that a couple of relievers have contracts that will help them make the team to start the 2012 season. D.J. Carrasco and Jon Rauch – I’m looking at the two of you. To be fair, Carrasco may not be on the Opening Day roster, even with his contract. But there are 1.2 million reasons why he is still in the discussion.

Plus, we have the ghost of Blaine Boyer hanging over everything. Last year the Mets decided to open the year with Boyer on their roster due mainly to his impressive 11 IP in Spring Training. Of course it was the same Boyer who had a 4.63 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in six previous seasons and 227.1 IP in the majors. Playing the part of Boyer this year is Garrett Olson, who in 287.1 IP in the majors has a 6.14 ERA and a 1.653 WHIP. However, the Mets consider him the leading candidate to take over for Byrdak due to his 4.2 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play.

With that as our backdrop, here are the relievers I think should open the season with the Mets:

Manny Acosta – In two years with the Mets, Acosta has a 3.22 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 mark. Additionally, he has limited LHB to a .218 AVG. He can go for more than an inning at a time, can get strikeouts and does not have to be pulled when a lefty strides to the plate.

Miguel Batista – Last year the Mets did not have a true long man in the bullpen and Batista fills this role. Of course, he may be elevated to starting pitcher if Mike Pelfrey keeps throwing beach balls.

Josh Edgin – He’s never pitched above A-ball. He’s also 25 years old and unlikely to develop into more than what he is now. Last year he had a 10.4 K/9 in the minors. So far this Spring, he’s whiffed 7 batters in 5 innings and has not allowed a run. People will say that he’s doing that against minor leaguers. But they are still guys who played above A-ball, a higher competition level than what he’s seen previously.

Frank Francisco – I know he’s getting punched around here in Grapefruit League play, but Francisco was lights out in the second half of last season and I remain confident that he will be a good acquisition for the Mets.

Danny Herrera – It is very simple and I do not care if he throws a screwball, Herrera is a LOOGY who should not face a RHB. Terry Collins did a great job getting Byrdak to face 65% lefties last year. If he did the same thing with Herrera, he’ll turn in a season with a better ERA and better WHIP than Byrdak did last year.

Bobby Parnell – Just because he is not ready for the closer’s job does not mean Parnell is without his uses. Hopefully he will not enter with the game on the line after the seventh inning. Perhaps lower-pressure situations will lead to better results. Also, a return to 2010’s 2.1 BB/9 rate would do wonders for Parnell, too.

Ramon Ramirez – The same comments that apply to Francisco can also be used here.


We all know that Rauch will be on the Opening Day roster, despite his declining fastball velocity since 2008. Maybe 2011 was an aberration and he will return to the guy he was the previous two seasons. Stranger things have happened but I would not wager on it with your money, much less mine.

Olson has to be considered the frontrunner for the other spot, even if his best role is as this year’s Pat Misch, a rotation depth guy to plug in at Buffalo until an injury happens in the majors. So, substitute Rauch and Olson for Edgin and Herrera and that is who I expect to go north with the Mets this year.

10 comments for “Which relievers will be on Mets’ Opening Day roster?

  1. March 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Good question. It’s definitely tricky to figure who’ll be in the Mets’ pen to start the year. Francisco, Rauch, Ramirez, and Acosta are locks, and they should be. The first 3 were acquired in the offseason to be Major League pieces. How they’ve performed in the Spring Training practice games is wholly irrelevant to the security of their positions. And Acosta was arguably the Mets’ best reliever last year, received an arbitration raise in the offseason, and is out of options. Byrdak would also be a lock if healthy, but it looks like he’ll be starting the year on the DL.

    Edgin, to me, is the easiest guy to exclude. At 25, he’s probably done physically maturing, but I disagree that he’s done developing. He has just a year and a half of pro experience under his belt and admits himself that his changeup needs work. He’s also still never faced anyone above Single A in a real game. I’m a big fan, but he’s my closer in AA to start the year.

    One of Olson, James, Nitkowski, or Herrera is bound to make the squad, at least for as long as Byrdak is hurt. I’d be okay with any of them, but while Byrdak’s out I’d try to skew Acosta’s innings so that he’s facing a healthier portion of left-handed hitters than usual.

    I assume that Batista will either be added or cut, since I don’t think the Mets would want to pay the $100K retention bonus it would take to keep him in the minors. Parnell has Major League stuff, but has been totally non-productive in high leverage situations and has options left. And with Carrasco, the Mets are on the hook for his $1.2M salary.

    If it’s me, I’d probably go with Francisco, Rauch, Ramirez, Acosta, Batista, Carrasco, and one of the lefties (Herrera I guess). Byrdak would go to the DL, Parnell would be my AAA closer, Olson & James would also go to AAA, and Edgin would be closing games in Binghamton.

  2. Brian Joura
    March 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I’m not sure why you’d be okay with Nitkowski, Olson or James over Herrera. Leaving aside Nitkowski, who AFAIK is still not under contract, Olson has a .776 lifetime OPS versus LHB while James has an .803 mark while Herrera checks in with a .588 mark.

    Parnell will be the interesting one. How would he react to being in the minors for a good part of the 2012 season to work on being a closer? Also, is there any benefit to having him pitch in the minors in the ninth inning role? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions.

    • March 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

      I’d be okay with any of the lefties because the role is about as small and temporary as they come. I expect the guy to see around 5 innings before Byrdak is ready, and then get DFA’d, clear waivers, and be outrighted back to Buffalo. In 5 innings, I don’t think the difference between Herrera, Olson, James, and Nitkowski (who isn’t under contract, and might never be since he’d also qualify for the retention bonus), is much at all.

      As for Parnell, he certainly wouldn’t be pleased to be in the minors. It’s admittedly an unlikely real world scenario. The suggestion was more about finding a way to keep two long relievers (Carrasco & Batista) around for the start of the season. Parnell closing games in Buffalo would at least afford him some high leverage opportunities to work on whatever it is that keeps him from performing in those situations. In reality, Parnell’s job in middle relief is probably safe, while Carrasco & Batista are battling for the last spot in the pen.

  3. Brian Joura
    March 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

    But Parnell would have to realize that he’ll never make as much money as a middle man as he would as a closer. Would the Mets be able to sell him on that to make the trip to Buffalo worthwhile?

    As for the IP of the LOOGY — Byrdak had 8 IP last year in April and 4.2 in May. At first they said Byrdak would be out until the end of May but now Byrdak thinks he can be ready much sooner than that. I guess we’ll see. Either way, Boyer is all the reminder we need of how much damage a reliever can do in 6.2 IP…

    • March 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      They wouldn’t have to sell Parnell on anything. He has options and doesn’t have the service time to refuse the assignment. Team control is a beautiful thing. For the team at least.

      As for the LOOGYs, I thought I had heard initially 4-6 weeks from the surgery, which would be 1-3 weeks into the season, and then that the timeframe had moved up. But maybe I’m mistaken. Either way, with such a tiny sample, anything can happen. If anything, that’s what Boyer’s brief Mets stint reminds us. Ultimately, I guess I just don’t think Herrera is so much better an option than the other 2 or 3 that it warrants such a strong preference. But FWIW, I did say “Herrera I guess” as the lefty I’d include.

  4. Brian Joura
    March 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I understand that the Mets can do it. My question is if it’s in the best interest of everyone. I don’t know what Parnell’s reputation is but would it be a surprise if he went into a funk over a demotion? I can see Rauch stinking in the majors and Parnell sulking in the minors and the Mets ending up in a lose-lose situation.

    I like the idea of a 7th inning guy who can throw 100 mph. But is Parnell better served throwing gas in the 7th inning in the majors compared to the 9th inning in the minors? To me – that’s the interesting question.

    • March 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      If a middle reliever is going to sulk about a demotion, then I’m okay moving on to the next middle reliever. As for that Rauch scenario, on my depth chart, both Ramirez and Acosta would be ahead of Parnell for those higher leverage innings. I see him (Parnell) as the 5th righty in the pen at the moment.

      I’m fine with Parnell in a middle relief role in the Majors right now. And that may well be the best place for him to be. But I can’t say I’m overly confident about the rotation’s ability to go deep into games. That’s my bigger concern. Sending Parnell down is an imperfect solution, but it was a way to preserve depth and keep 2 long men in the pen, at least early on. But who knows, maybe the Mets are willing to drop $100k to keep Batista in AAA as an option until June 1. Or maybe they’re convinced that DJ Carrasco isn’t worth a roster spot at all anymore.

  5. Brian Joura
    March 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Put aside salary – in 2012 would you really rather have Jon Rauch in the game in a tight spot in the 7th inning than Parnell?

    • March 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      If my only goal is to win the game, and those are my 2 options, yes I’d prefer to call on Rauch in that spot.

  6. Metsense
    March 21, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Francisco (an average closer at best), Ramirez (the most accomplished reliever of the group), Acosta, Parnell(who may some day be a closer but it won’t be in NY and they should have tried to trade him in the winter. GM’s are still enamored with his 101MPH potential which is IMO fool’s gold), Rauch (because they foolishly signed him), Schwinden(until Byrdak is healthy) and Batista, (because he is better than Carrasco but it is a sad state of affairs when a 41 year old is your only option). Schwinden would serve as a second long man in the bullpen to address the good point that Chris made concerning the starting pitching. If Schwinden is considered better than Batista by the Mets then I would save the 100K and keep Carrasco until Byrdak is ready and then cut Carrasco. Messing around with the 40 man roster for a temporary replacement for Byrdak would be a mistake.

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