When the Mets signed left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo to a two-year, $12 million deal on January 22, it didn’t exactly grab headlines—mostly because the Mets were still in hot pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes, whom they would sign just two days later—but it was still seen as a sensible contract for a good reliever with a great name.
Bastardo was coming off a fine season for the Pirates in 2015, in which he had posted a 2.98 ERA and 3.33 FIP while striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings. The southpaw also had nice seasons with the Phillies in 2011 and 2013, although those were tempered by some below-average years in 2012 and 2014. So Bastardo’s inconsistencies were a red flag coming in, and his walk rate of four batters per nine innings for his career may have had something to do with them.
Bastardo figured to slot into the seventh or eighth inning, teaming up with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia to form a formidable back end of the bullpen for the Mets. But that didn’t quite go as planned. The lefty struggled so mightily in spring training that Terry Collins lost enough confidence to shy away from using him in high-leverage situations early in the season.
Bastardo quickly redeemed himself early in the season, though. From April 8 to May 14, he was quietly spectacular for the Mets, posting a 2.16 ERA, 3.33 FIP, and 3.85 xFIP while roughly keeping up his 2015 pace in strikeouts. This stretch was highlighted by a game in San Diego on May 8, when he entered with a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and nobody out. Bastardo got out of the jam unscathed, preserving the lead for the Mets, who went on to win that game.
Unfortunately, things went quickly downhill from there for Bastardo. From May 18 to July 30, he posted an unsightly 6.33 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and 6.15 FIP. His strikeout rate dropped, his walk rate stayed high, and he allowed more than two home runs per nine innings over that stretch. Bastardo swiftly went from being a high-leverage reliever to the mop-up man in the Mets’ bullpen.
At the trade deadline, the Mets sent Bastardo back to the Pirates in exchange for the returning Jon Niese in a “please take this back” type of deal. The Mets also sent an undisclosed amount of money to the Pirates in the trade to offset some of Bastardo’s remaining contract.
Overall, Bastardo finished his brief Mets tenure with a 4.74 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.07 FIP, and a 4.75 xFIP. The Mets were able to survive the unexpected downfall of Bastardo—thanks in large part to the successes of Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins—but having another reliable reliever in the bullpen could’ve gone a long way toward saving Reed, Blevins, and Familia from racking up some ghastly workloads. Bastardo was unable to provide that.