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2016 Free agent profile: Joe Blanton

The starter-turned-reliever could be a good addition to the Mets' bullpen in 2016.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Blanton's long career as a mediocre starter seemed to be at an end. In 2013, he posted a 6.04 ERA in 132.2 innings with the Angels, and he was released at the start of 2014. He pitched only 10.2 minor league innings with the Athletics that year before signing on with the Royals at the start of the 2015 season. After several mediocre starts, he moved to the bullpen, but he was eventually designated for assignment and traded to the Pirates for cash after Kansas City acquired Johnny Cueto.

Instead of using him as a depth starter and mop-up reliever like the Royals did, the Pirates deployed Blanton as an extremely effective weapon out of the bullpen. In 34.1 innings in Pittsburgh, Blanton struck out 10.22 opponents per nine and walked 2.36. He had a 1.57 ERA and 2.11 FIP in the part of the regular season he spent in Pittsburgh. While these numbers still came with a significant platoon split—lefties had a .330 wOBA against him—total package was still a very useful reliever.

So how did Blanton go from a failed starter to a shut down reliever so quickly? The primary change came in his pitch mix. Long known for his changeup and, to a lesser extent, his curveball, Blanton began throwing his slider more than every other pitch in 2015, nearly one-third of the time. Opponents hit just .176/.197/.203 against the pitch, and they hit .143/.200/.167 against his changeup. Blanton was absolutely devastating against right-handed hitters, even though his velocity didn't increase when he moved to the bullpen.

Assuming Blanton isn't dead set on staying in Pittsburgh, he is a low-risk option for the Mets' bullpen.