It goes without saying that the New York Mets' Achillies heel last season was the bullpen. Locking down the wins in the eighth and ninth inning was very difficult for a makeshift bullpen, which lost Bill Wagner late last year and never found the right formula of relievers for getting the win.
Ironically enough, the bullpen has been rock solid this year. New additions JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez have been nothing short of godsends and very reliable when the Mets have a led going into the eighth. Maybe overlooked are the contributions of newly acquired Sean Green and youngsters Bobby Parnell and Brian Stokes, who have made great strides as late inning relievers.
The Mets' curse so far in this short season has been inconsistent and shaky starting pitching. Johan Santana has been the ace everyone knew he would be, giving up just one earned run in three starts.
After finally breaking out last year, No. 2 man Mike Pelfrey has been roughed up and bothered by nagging injuries. Oliver Perez, whom the team committed a large contract to in the offseason, doesn’t appear to be in shape for the year and has been wildly inconsistent (pun thoroughly intended). John Maine has been very sharp at times, but has fallen victim to disaster innings and looks like he will never be more than a 5-6 inning starter.
Livan Hernandez has been spectacular for the Mets this season, especially given his lack of success in recent years. Perhaps he is best fit in the NL, and he can provide great fifth starter production.
However, many have to be skeptical if Hernandez can keep it up. He has a track record of fast starts and drastic falloffs. At the very least, he will eat innings and throw strikes, which will be helpful in giving the bullpen a rest after they are worked like dogs during Perez and Maine starts.
With many top starters available via trade and the economy forcing lower market teams to potentially have to deal top talent for salary relief, the Mets could have many options to fill the the void created by an ineffective staff.
With few options in the minors for immediate help, and lefty Jon Neise looking less and less like the prospect the Mets thought he could be, it might be time to sell the farm off for a top notch starter.
Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, and Roy Oswalt are all previous CY Young award winners, and all look to be on the block soon, if not already. The Mets don’t have the strongest farm, but they have a lot to give away if a team inquired.
Young SS prospect Wilmer Flores could be enticing, as well as Jon Neise and Fernando Martinez. F-Mart, who once left Mets fans salivating, is not matching his potential with production. It might be time to sell him while his values might still be high, much like the Yankees did with Jose Tabata.
2008 first rounders Reece Havens and Ike Davis, as well as Eddie Kunz and even Nick Evans, might be of interest, and are hardly untradeable blue-chippers.
Bottom line is if a team like the Blue Jays or Padres is looking to acquire a lot of mid-level prospects over one or two top-flight guys, the Mets wouldn’t be in bad shape. A team that sold the farm for Johan Santana—and no one in the tri-state area is complaining about that—may still have what it takes to land a big-time arm. I think it’s obvious this team needs to pull the trigger and get another top starter in Queens.
My personal plan: Throw absolutely everything, including maybe even Ryan Church at the Padres and Blue Jays for Peavy or Halladay and see what happens. Move John Maine to the bullpen as a long/middle reliever to go two innings of relief in short outings and be a spot-starter when needed.
The good news is that the Mets aren’t far away ,and they have loads of potential. Those screaming about the sky falling need to be talked some sense, and made aware that it’s still very early.
This team traditionally doesn’t hit its stride until about two months in, and can really only go up from here. Those who actually believe Florida’s hot streak will last and that they will continue to be able to hide their abysmal bullpen is crazy.
It's still early folks, so come down off the ledge. I am confident in this team and what they can do, and that if they needed a big impact move, it is attainable.