Michael Baron, Contributor
The Mets signed relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde to minor league contracts earlier this month. The two veteran pitchers come with question marks, though both have a lot of upside and the kind of experience the team had been searching for to anchor their young bullpen.
Historically, the Mets have preferred to send healthy veterans north on Opening Day. Not only do they seem to have more confidence in veterans, but there tends to be more roster flexibility with the younger arms, which allows the team to easily send them back to Triple-A. But, it’s hard to envision both Farnsworth and Valverde making the club for Opening Day, especially considering they want to give opportunities to some of the younger relievers in camp.
In the case of Valverde, I expect he has a steeper hill to climb than Farnsworth, considering how much he’s struggled in recent seasons. It could depend on how many relievers they decide to take north on Opening Day, but I expect at least one of them to join Parnell, Scott Rice and Carlos Torres on the roster come March 31.
The rest of the bullpen, however, remains in question. Most other spots are open, and there are a lot of options to choose from…
The Mets need a second lefty in the bullpen right out of the gate. Too often in recent years, the Mets have gone north with only one left-handed reliever, and they have been burned badly by those decisions. Josh Edgin is the obvious choice in camp, but he struggled last year and his stuff appeared to diminished from 2012. The Mets have invited Jack Leathersich to big league camp, and while he isn’t on the 40-man roster, he could make a case for the job if he shows improved command over the course of spring training. They could also sign someone during camp to solve the problem entirely.
On the right side of the bullpen, I would expect Vic Black has a very good chance to make the club. He showed he’s big league ready late last year with a hard fastball and a heavy curve, something which could play well in a late-inning setup role. Jeurys Familia should also receive strong consideration, but has to show better command of his stuff during camp. They could turn to Gonzalez Germen, Ryan Reid or Joel Carreno instead of Familia, although only Germen and Reid are on the 40-man roster and none of the three have particularly strong track records in the big leagues.
Alternatively, the Mets could consider righties Jeff Walters or Rafael Montero for a bullpen spot. Walters had an outstanding season as Double-A Binghamton’s closer in 2013, and many in the organization consider Montero ready right now. However, Montero isn’t on the 40-man roster yet and I have to believe the preference is to send both to Triple-A to avoid being “Super Two” eligible in 2016.
The Mets can afford to carry an extra reliever on Opening Day. They won’t need a fifth starter until April 14 in Arizona, meaning the competition for the final bullpen spot could last until that time, but, no matter what, there’s going to be inexperience going north in some variation.
The good news is that unlike in prior seasons, the Mets appear to have different intriguing options to turn to at any given point, which could quickly mitigate any injury or under-performance.