New York Mets: Battle for Final Bullpen Spot a 3-Man Race
One of my colleagues, Nicholas Pugliese, recently wrote a piece on his thoughts about who will claim the final spot in the Mets bullpen.
As he said, Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Taylor Buchholz, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak and Pedro Beato have all earned spots.
However, a three-headed race has emerged for the final spot between Jason Isringhausen, Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta.
Each reliever has several pros and cons and different contractual status that will make this a tough decision for Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.
Here are those pros and cons and my prediction on who will secure the spot.
10) Other Two Will Latch on Elsewhere
Middle relievers are always in high demand.
Each offseason, these bullpen pitchers are on the move due to the itinerant nature of their job. One season they can be spectacular, and the next they can struggle.
Whatever decision the Mets make, they are likely to permanently lose the two relievers who do not make the team.
Therefore, the Mets brass will consider many different scenarios over the next week so they feel comfortable with their decision.
Knowing the Mets’ luck, the other two relievers will undoubtedly get big outs late in games against the Mets down the road.
However, that’s a risk the Mets must be willing to take.
9) Blaine Boyer Can Opt Out
Blaine Boyer can opt out of his contract if not on the Mets' 25-man roster by March 31—the day before Opening Day.
Boyer signed a minor-league deal with the Mets this winter, but he appears unlikely to accept a minor-league assignment.
If Boyer agrees to accept a trip to the minors, it would make the decision easier.
Injuries are inevitable—especially for the Mets—so Boyer would see time in the big leagues at some point.
However, another team may give him a chance for a spot on a major-league roster.
8) No Options for Manny Acosta
Manny Acosta is out of options, meaning he would have to pass through waivers in order to be sent to the minors.
Acosta has posted a 1.69 ERA in eight games this spring.
He has good stuff and would likely be snatched up very quickly.
Not having options doesn’t appear to have saved Pat Misch, so let’s see how the Mets treat Acosta.
7) Blaine Boyer's Career
While Blaine Boyer has made some noise this spring, his career statistics aren’t exactly stellar.
In six seasons with the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, the 29-year-old has a 4.63 career ERA.
That’s quite high for a middle reliever, so it raises some concerns about his effectiveness late in games.
He did have a strong 30-game clip in 2009 for the Diamondbacks in which he posted a 2.69 ERA.
However, Boyer’s track record may work against him.
6) Jason Isringhausen's Health
Jason Isringhausen has had three Tommy John surgeries since originally being drafted by the Mets as part of the famous “Generation K.”
He got off to a great start this spring but experienced a pop in his right elbow about two weeks ago.
According to Steve Popper of the Bergen Record, Izzy will have to prove to the Mets over this next week that he can stay healthy all season.
He returned this weekend to throw a scoreless inning, which may help his chances.
5) Jason Isringhausen Won't Accept Minors Assignment
Jason Isringhausen has made it known that he will not accept a minor-league assignment.
Based on his track record, why would he?
He has pitched well enough this spring that even if the Mets don’t carry him, another team may come calling.
The Mets have pondered the idea of sending Izzy to extended spring training to ensure he’s healthy.
However, even if that was the case, the Mets would still be faced with a bullpen personnel issue when Izzy comes back.
4) Manny Acosta's 2010 Season
Manny Acosta’s 2010 performance was lost in the shuffle of an otherwise poor season for the Mets.
In 41 games, Acosta posted a 2.95 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 39.2 innings.
His workload didn’t increase until the final two months last season, when the Mets were basically going through the motions.
Regular-season performance usually trumps spring training, so Acosta’s strong 2010 season keeps him in the conversation.
3) Blaine Boyer's 2011 Spring
Blaine Boyer’s performance this spring has kept him alive.
He was originally brought in for bullpen insurance, but he has been on top of his game.
In 10 innings, Boyer has only surrendered one earned run, which translates into a 0.90 ERA.
He’s been a ground-ball machine, which can be vital to a team looking for a late-inning double-play ball.
Boyer has made the Mets’ decision very tough.
2) Jason Isringhausen's Experience
One thing that Jason Isringhausen has that the other two players lack is considerable experience.
Izzy has appeared in 621 games and has recorded 293 saves. He has seven 30-plus-save seasons.
Though the Mets have Francisco Rodriguez firmly entrenched in the closer’s role, it’s always a smart idea for a team to carry another reliever that has closing experience.
In addition to his regular-season performance, Izzy has 23 postseason appearances with 11 saves.
His experience can make a difference, especially on a Mets team that has plenty of new faces.
1) Mets' Best Option
Based on a multitude of factors, Jason Isringhausen seems like the best choice to fill the final bullpen spot for the Mets.
Despite his age and injury history, Izzy still has the best track record compared to Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta.
He has been a “feel-good” story this spring for the Mets, who would love to finally get some value out of their former highly touted draft pick.
There are pros and cons with each candidate, but Izzy appears to have the largest upside—at least for this season.