It is no secret that pitching has been the strength of the 2015 New York Mets. The Amazins' staff currently ranks third in baseball with a 3.22 ERA. While most of the attention has been focused on the starting rotation's exciting young phenoms, the Mets bullpen has performed admirably this year as well. New York's bullpen touts a 2.71 ERA, good for fourth-best in the Majors.
Despite injuries to several key bullpen pieces like Josh Edgin, Jerry Blevins, and Vic Black, as well as Jenrry Mejia's 80-game absence due to a positive PED test, the Mets bullpen has mostly held down the fort when called upon. Of course, the bullpen has not been perfect. Perhaps the biggest reason for its imperfection is southpaw Alex Torres.
A week before the start of the season, the Mets traded for both Torres and Blevins after Edgin's season-ending Tommy John surgery left the Mets in dire need of left-handed relievers. Blevins was perfect, retiring the first 15 batters he faced as a Met before he suffered a fractured left forearm early in the season. Torres, on the other hand, has been mediocre at best.
In 29.2 innings this season, Torres has issued 24 walks and has a 1.58 WHIP. His control issues were known before the Mets acquired him, but his 7.0 walks per nine innings this yer this year is the worst of his career since his rookie season, when he pitched in just four games. Moreover, the Mets have tried to use Torres to get lefties out in Blevins's absence, which has not worked out well, as he has allowed a .286 batting average to left-handed hitters. Torres was never known as a lefty specialist, but that does not change the fact that he has not performed well in the role the Mets have tried to make for him.
More alarmingly, Torres has really struggled to limit baserunners in his appearances. In fact, as Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, Torres has not had a game in which he did not give up at least one walk or hit since May 23 in Pittsburgh.
Who remembers the last time Alex Torres pitched without giving up a walk or a hit? It's been a very, very long time. pic.twitter.com/d5i13kYgCn— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) July 19, 2015
In the beginning of the season, Torres was called upon often, but he has appeared in just seven games since June 21, an indication that Terry Collins is likely losing confidence in his ability to get batters out.
The Mets had a chance to rid themselves of Torres on July 7 when they needed to clear a roster spot for Jenrry Mejia, but instead decided to demote rookie Logan Verrett. The move was criticized by many, fans and beat writers, alike. Verrett, who the Mets drafted in 2011, was lost in the Rule 5 draft to the Orioles in 2014, taken by the Rangers on waivers, and then eventually returned to the Mets.
He pitched very well in his brief major league stint with the Mets. In six appearances, Verrett allowed just one earned run while striking out twelve and walking only two. He also pitched three scoreless innings against the Dodgers in Los Angeles to notch his first career save, two days before his demotion.
The decision to demote Verrett instead of Torres was a simple one and did make some sense at the time. Verrett still had minor league options remaining, while Torres did not, meaning he would have had to been put on waivers before the Mets sent him to Triple-A. In addition, Torres has had some success at the major league level, and it was sensible to stick with a more experienced lefty, rather than Verrett, who has appeared in just ten big league games.
However, with the Mets' offense continuing its trend of futility, the bullpen has become so crucial to the team. The Mets need a superior bullpen to keep them in games and to preserve the often-thin leads that they are provided. There is no room for error, as any hiccup from the pitching staff is unlikely to be overcome by the Mets' anemic offense. With the team within reach of both the National League East and a Wild Card spot, the Mets no longer have the ability to worry about secondary things like player options and waivers. Simply, they need to put together the best 25-man roster available. And that roster should should not include Torres.
There are two immediate scenarios in which Torres can be replaced. The first is simply calling up Verrett and designating Torres for assignment. However, Verrett has been starting in Triple-A, and the Mets do not seem intent on bringing him back to the Majors for a bullpen role in the near future. It is possible that Verrett will be used for spot starts while the team waits for Steven Matz's lat injury to heal.
The other scenario is having Erik Goeddel replace Torres when Goeddel returns from injury. Goeddel, another rookie, has been sidelined with a right elbow strain since June 12, but he has begun throwing off a mound and appears poised for a return fairly soon. Goeddel has impressed in his rookie season, and the Mets' bullpen will receive some much-needed depth when he returns.
If Torres is still on the roster when Goeddel is ready to be activated from the disabled list, the Mets have to let Torres go, assuming there are no more major injuries between now and then. Torres's departure would leave the Mets' bullpen with only one lefty, Sean Gilmartin, who is not a lefty specialist, either. But he has performed much better than Torres. In the same number of innings as Torres (29.2), Gilmartin has a 1.82 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and has issued just 13 walks. He has also allowed a .242 average to left-handed batters, compared to Torres's .286.
Considering his lack of control, his inability to consistently retire lefties, and the availability of better bullpen options, Torres's value to the Mets at this point is very minimal. His departure will open up opportunities for more talented relievers and will put the Mets' bullpen in a better position as they pursue a playoff berth in the final two months of the season.