As we head towards the summer, the Mets have shown no recent signs of heating up. Although New York took the first two games of their series against the Los Angeles Angels, a 12-5 route on Sunday afternoon put the team at 18-24. The team has been very streaky in recent years, but maybe more so this year than any prior campaign. After an impressive 7-3 start to the 2017 season, the Mets have undergone three separate losing streaks of four games or more, including a seven game skid last week. That losing stretch all started with a collapse against the San Francisco Giants on May 10th. New York was set to sweep the 2014 World Series Champions before Jeurys Familia surrendered a bases clearing double to Christian Arroyo in the top of the 9th inning. After the game, it was announced that Jeurys Familia had a blood clot in his throwing arm, and would need surgery to have it removed. The estimated recovery time is three to four months.
The Mets have issues all over the field, but a serious concern is their bullpen. Familia may have been a liability so far in 2017, but at least he has some sort of respectable track record that makes him a legitimate option out of the bullpen. Without the 2016 All-Star, the Mets are left with Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Robert Gsellman, Rafael Montero, Neil Ramirez, Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas, and Paul Sewald.
Aside from Reed and Blevins, this group of relievers doesn’t install much faith in Terry Collins. Moving Gsellman to the bullpen paid huge dividends on Saturday evening, when the right-hander tossed two scoreless innings allowing just one hit to hold a Mets lead. While his most recent outing is reason to be optimistic, it is important to remember when he surrendered an earned run in just one inning of work against the Diamondbacks. He is unproven as a reliable reliever, and will remain so until he can consistently pitch out of the pen like he did against the Angels.
Josh Edgin has been effective, but only against left-handed hitters. The southpaw has a 1.74 ERA when facing batters of the same handedness, but his ERA against righties is an alarming 5.40. Edgin is a match-up specialist, not someone who can pitch in the 7th or 8th inning on a daily basis. Sewald is essentially the right-handed version of Edgin; lefties are hitting .350 off of Sewald.
The final four members of the New York Mets bullpen are all a huge part of the bullpen’s problem. Rafael Montero, Neil Ramirez, Hansel Robles, and Fernando Salas have combined to allow forty-five earned runs in only 58 and 2/3 innings. With three options that have been totally ineffective for a majority of the 2017 season, Terry Collins has been put in a position where he must use relievers he cannot trust. Collins is to blame for some of his questionable choices regarding bullpen usage, but the players aren’t performing, and there’s nothing he can do about that.
So where do the Mets go from here? There will be some viable bullpen options available on the trade market this summer, including Kansas City’s Kelvin Herrera. Although the flamethrowing closer has struggled in 2017, he has been nearly unstoppable since his breakout campaign in 2014. Since that 2014 season, Herrera has 233 appearances, posting a 2.46 ERA and striking out 228 batters. His arsenal features a 98 MPH four-seam fastball that generates a ton of swings and misses. His changeup sits around 90 MPH, and his slider produces tons of ground-balls with its hard cut away from right-handed hitters.
Herrera would be a serious upgrade for the Mets, but Sandy Alderson has been reluctant to trade top prospects in past summers. However, Herrera is under team-control through the 2019 season, so New York may be more willing to make the trade. Amed Rosario would be untouchable, so the Royals would likely target Dominic Smith as the centerpiece of any trade. Smith is batting .320 with a .478 slugging percentage in Triple-A Las Vegas this year. Couple that with his solid defense at first base, and Smith has the mold of a franchise first-baseman, which is exactly what Kansas City needs as Eric Hosmer is set to hit free agency this winter. The Mets value Smith highly, though, which makes the trade unlikely.
A lower cost option that would still give the Mets a reliable arm out of the pen could be Anthony Swarzak of the Chicago White Sox. The 32 year-old has had the best year of his career thus far, posting a 1.37 ERA over 16 appearances for Chicago. With their rebuild in full swing and Swarzak having a big year, White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn is likely looking to sell high, yet reasonably. Swarzak likely won’t sustain these numbers, but he could continue to be effective in relief. A deal featuring Gavin Cecchini or Brandon Nimmo with another top 30 prospect should be enough to send Swarzak to Flushing.
If the Mets are set on trying to solving the problem in house, the two primary options would be Josh Smoker and Tyler Pill. Smoker struggled at the big league level earlier this year, but has pitched adequately in a starting role since being sent down. Tyler Pill is the more interesting and potentially impactful move. In seven starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Pill has surrendered just ten earned runs over forty-six innings of work. Pill isn’t an overpowering, strikeout pitcher, but he has proven effective at the highest minor league level. The 27 year-old could be in line for an opportunity to pitch out of the bullpen in New York soon assuming his success and the Mets bullpen struggles continue.
The Mets are positioned to have a good week as they will face the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. San Diego sits at the bottom of the National League West, and they have amassed a 7-16 record away from Petco Park. Following the end of their homestand, the Mets will travel to Pittsburgh for a series with the Pirates. Pittsburgh also sits in last place in their division, although they have won six of their last ten games. The Mets could very well turn things around and climb back to .500, but their success will hinge on their bullpen.