Last night, the Mets' bullpen blew two late leads and turned what could have been an exciting victory into a deflating defeat. Mets relief pitchers have, of course, been bad all year, but Sandy Alderson has recently made it clear that the Mets are seeking help in the bullpen as the trade deadline approaches.
The team is currently carrying eleven pitchers and fourteen position players, which makes for a crowded six-player bench and a bullpen that's one arm short of capacity. Since a deal for potential trade targets like Huston Street, Jonathan Broxton, or Francisco Rodriguez does not appear to be imminent, the team would have to promote a pitcher from within the organization.
Enter Manny Acosta. The 31-year-old right-handed pitcher was sent to Buffalo at the end of May after he performed horribly over the first two months of the Mets' season. Over the course of nineteen appearances, Acosta produced an 11.86 ERA and an obscene 6.1 BB/9.
His opponents' .414 batting average on balls in play was astronomical, though, and even pitchers who give up the hardest contact in the game don't typically see a BABIP above .400. That's not to say that the results weren't really, really bad, but Acosta was probably at least a little bit unlucky in his 22.0 innings of work in the early part of the season. When you're walking so many hitters, a little bit of poor luck can go a long way towards producing disastrous results.
In Buffalo, however, Acosta has been dominant. In fourteen appearances, he has a 1.59 ERA, and his 9.1 K/9 and 0.4 BB/9 show that he's pitching very well. Triple-A hitters are obviously not of the same caliber as those in MLB, but the results are still encouraging. It's also worth remembering that Acosta posted a 3.22 ERA over 86.2 innings of work between 2010 and 2011 with the Mets, and he spent parts of those seasons playing for Buffalo, too.
In order to promote Acosta, the Mets would need to clear a spot on both the 25-man and 40-man roster. The team could designate either Mike Nickeas or Rob Johnson for assignment since both are on the 40-man roster, and the risk of losing either player does not outweigh the potential benefit of bringing back Acosta. If such a move were made, the struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis could be sent to Buffalo to work on hitting in order to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Acosta.