Everyone loves to talk about the starting pitching in Queens, but the Mets need to get their bullpen in order as a new season approaches.
If history is any indication, New York will be without All-Star closer Jeurys Familia to start the 2017 campaign. Familia was arrested earlier in the offseason for domestic violence. The charges were dropped, but that has not stopped Major League Baseball from suspending players in similar situations before. Expect Familia to miss some action.
In the meantime, the Mets will miss a pitcher that saved 51 games in 56 tries last season. Familia has been one of the best closers in the game the last two seasons, totaling 94 saves and a 2.20 ERA. Assuming MLB repeats past protocol, the Mets need to find a way to make up for that production.
If the Mets roster does not change, Addison Reed will likely be the fill-in. The right-hander has done the job before, serving as the White Sox’s and Diamondbacks’ closer between 2012 and 2014. Reed was rather inconsistent in those three years, collecting 101 saves to go along with a 4.22 ERA.
Despite his pedestrian experience in the role, the Mets are sure to stick with what they have in Reed rather than hit the free agent market. It is not often the Mets spend, but if they change course there are a few free agents out there familiar with the ninth inning.
Greg Holland, Tommy Hunter, Neftali Feliz and Sergio Romo would all make stellar replacements for Familia if needed, but they would all also require the Mets to crack open their piggy bank.
Instead, New York is much more likely to add some depth to the bullpen by way of a lefty reliever.
Right now, Josh Edgin is the team’s only southpaw reliever. The 30-year-old was a stud for the Mets in 2015, pitching to the tune of a 1.32 ERA as a specialist. Edgin needed Tommy John surgery that season, though, and pitched in just 16 games last year. The Mets need to find the lefty a partner.
In-house options include Sean Gilmartin and Josh Smoker. Both pitchers have offered mixed results in their short careers, however. The Mets should be looking for someone a little more reliable.
One option that makes a lot of sense is Jerry Blevins, who has spent the last two years in Flushing. A free agent, the veteran missed most of 2015 but bounced back nicely last year with a 2.79 ERA and career-highs of 11.1 K/9 and 73 appearances.
Other left-handed free agent options that could fit are Boone Logan and Chris Capuano. Both have worked in New York before.
There is one other alternative that would not only allow the Mets to add depth to their pen, but also alleviate the logjam they have in their rotation. That alternative would be to send Zack Wheeler to the bullpen.
With rookie starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman stepping up for the Mets in 2016 and Wheeler having not pitched since 2014 thanks to Tommy John, New York may decide Wheeler is better off in relief.
As Sandy Alderson noted in December, the Mets would not eliminate the possibility.
Regardless of what the Mets do, they are going to need an upgrade in relief. Even if Familia somehow avoids suspension — he won’t — New York could still use a veteran like Blevins or one of the pitchers mentioned above with closing experience.
The Mets have more than enough quality starters to contend again in 2016. Now it’s time to shore up the bullpen.