(This is Part I of a two part breakdown for the Mets offseason.)
With the MLB offseason upon us, let’s take a look at some players that the Mets should be targeting this winter. First and foremost, we need to identify the team’s needs. It’s no secret that injuries derailed the Mets season in 2017. That being said, there were still some glaring weaknesses for this team. Their pitching staff, which was supposed to be there strong point, ended up being their achilles heel. The Mets were 27th in team ERA in 2017 and 29th in team WHIP. Needless to say, there is a lot of room for improvement. Again, injuries to Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and Matt Harvey didn’t help, but for a team built on pitching, these are startling statistics.
Clearly pitching is something that needs to be on the agenda for the Mets this offseason. They will, in part, rely on a lot of those guys coming back healthy, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be looking at some alternatives in the free-agent market. Now, let’s take a look at some of the pitchers out there on the open market that could find themselves playing in Flushing in 2018:
Brandon Morrow (RHP) – Morrow had a bounce-back year for the NL Champs in 2017. A former starter, Morrow adapted well to the bullpen and played a huge role for the Dodgers in the playoffs including pitching in all 7 games of the World Series (although he did struggle in the World Series). For a team that expects to contend in 2018, a guy with experience like that coming out of the ‘pen would be huge. Also, it seems like the Mets are one of the few teams to not jump on-board to this growing trend of power arms in the bullpen. Yes, they added a few young flamethrowers last year during their fire sale of Neil Walker, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Addison Reed, but the young arms they got in return do not seem likely to contribute in 2018. Morrow is a hard thrower with good experience who can come in for the 6th, 7th, or 8th inning, and his stuff is electric. With the Mets expected to spend around $30 million this winter, Morrow is a guy that can be had for about $6-$7 million per year. A 2 year/$15 million deal seems logical.
Brandon Kintzler (RHP) – Kintzler was closing games for the Minnesota Twins before being dealt to the Nationals who were in desperate need of bullpen help. He posted a 2.78 ERA and had 28 saves in 45 innings for the Twins and then had a 3.46 ERA in 26 innings for the Nats. He’s a guy with closer experience but he also has the versatility to pitch in any role out of the ‘pen. He would probably come at a lower cost than Morrow and would be a reliable arm for new Mets skipper Mickey Callaway to call out of the bullpen.
Addison Reed (RHP) – Ah, yes, Addison Reed. Reed struggled in Boston after the Mets traded him for young flamethrower, Drew Smith. However, Reed seemed very comfortable in a Mets uniform during his tenure here. A reunion with a reliable guy like Reed wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Jeremy Hellickson (RHP) – The Mets won’t be in the market for a front line ace like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. They could potentially be in the market for a back-end starter though and that’s where Hellickson comes into play. Hellickson had an up and down year in 2017. He pitched pretty well at times in Philly to the tune of a 4.73 ERA in 100+ innings. That may not seem very good but in a hitter friendly ballpark like Citizens Bank Park, it’s not terrible. However, his 6.97 ERA with the Orioles was absolutely terrible. Hellickson struggled mightily after being traded to Baltimore, which is why the Mets could go after him. Hellickson is a sinker-baller who needs to pitch in a pitcher-friendly ballpark like Citi Field. The Mets could buy low on Hellickson and hope he can be a solid 5th starter.
Jason Vargas (LHP) – Last but not least is Jason Vargas. In my personal opinion, Vargas and Morrow would be the best two options for the Mets as far as pitchers go this offseason. Vargas is coming off a career year in which he went 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA for the Kansas City Royals. He is 34 years old and could be the perfect fit for the back end of this rotation. With the health of Steven Matz up in the air, the Mets could really use another lefty in the rotation. Given Vargas’ advanced age and lack of steady production, he shouldn’t cost the Mets too much as far as money is concerned. He’s got good experience and he actually played for the Mets a decade ago posting a 12.19 ERA in 10 innings when he was just 24 years old. Ten years later, Vargas could make his return to Queens and provide the Mets with a steady arm at the back-end of their rotation.