Sandy Alderson wants the Mets bullpen to match the starting rotation.
Last season, led by ace Matt Harvey, Mets' starters finished eighth in baseball with a 3.68 ERA. The bullpen, however, finished 22nd with a 3.98 ERA.
While the unit showed improvement over the second half before injuries to some of the team's top relievers, Alderson wants a better stable of arms next season. "We need to have more quality arms in the bullpen," he said on Monday.
The bullpen has actually been the one unit Alderson has devoted significant resources into during his tenure, but his signings have not panned out thus far. He signed Frank Francisco to a two-year deal, but Francisco was inefficient and missed almost all of last season with an injury. The Mets brought in Brandon Lyon on a one-year deal for 2013, but the Mets released him in July.
Heading into 2014, the Mets may not need that many pieces to beef up their bullpen. Closer Bobby Parnell underwent surgery for a herniated disc in his neck, but he's said he should be fine for spring training. Vic Black, who the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh when they dealt away Marlon Byrd and John Buck, could serve as the setup man. Black had a 3.46 ERA after joining the team.
Veteran LaTroy Hawkins is a free agent, but all indications are the Mets would like to bring him back into the fold. He turned out to be a valuable asset for the team in 2013 as he went 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA, and also served as the closer when Parnell went down. He recorded 13 saves.
While the back end of the bullpen could be strong with Parnell, Black and Hawkins in the fold, Alderson wants to ensure there's depth beyond the final three innings. He noticed down the stretch how the unit faltered once Parnell was sidelined and long man Carlos Torres had to move to the rotation.
"We never had a real strong bottom half of the bullpen," Alderson said. "The key will be to have more arms, quality arms out there that we can rely on."
The Mets have plenty of internal candidates for the final spots including lefty Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen and Torres. Rice is coming off surgery for a sports hernia, but manager Terry Collins clearly trusted Rice as he appeared in 73 games. Torres has value as a long man/spot starter, while Germen's performance caught the attention of the manager. He had a 3.93 ERA in 34 1/3 innings.
"He came out of Las Vegas [where] you're getting your brains beat in three times a week because fly balls are sailing," Collins said on Monday about Germen. "Sometimes you can lose confidence in yourself but he came up here and bought into the fact you have to pitch with your fastball to make your other stuff work and he did that."