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Let’s find the Mets a relief pitcher: What’s left

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There are still some relief pitchers on the market who could help the Mets this year.

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Sergio Romo
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With a little over two months left before the 2017 season begins, it seems the Mets will still have Jay Bruce on their roster on Opening Day. That’s not how things were expected to play out this offseason, but with Yoenis Cespedes in the fold for the next four seasons, there are worse problems to have than getting stuck with Bruce.

There could be a bit of a problem if the team isn’t willing to spend any more money on its major league roster going into the season. There’s plenty to like about the way the things look right now, but the bullpen still seems a bit shaky—even when it includes Jeurys Familia.

Despite the late state of the offseason, though, there are still a bunch of potentially-useful relievers on the market, some of whom we’ve touched on earlier in this series. Let’s run down the list quickly and alphabetically.

What’s left

Matt Albers had a 6.80 ERA and 6.38 FIP for the White Sox last year, but the 34-year-old was much better than that in each of the previous three season.

A guy with three double-letters in his name, Aaron Barrett didn’t pitch in 2016. He’s 29 years old and struck out 10.80 batters per nine in his 70 innings in the big leagues between 2014 and 2015 with the Nationals.

Speaking of the Nationals, Matt Belisle fared well with them last year, with a 1.76 ERA and 2.48 FIP in 46.0 innings.

Joe Blanton is easily one of the best relievers left, which is a bit puzzling given his strong 2016 season—2.48 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 9.00 K/9, 80.0 IP—that backed up a very good performance in 2015.

We all know Jerry Blevins from the past couple of seasons. He was one of few left-handed relievers in free agency when the offseason began, and he’s somehow still out there.

Former Mets starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who’s also left-handed, struggled in 24.0 innings of relief with the Brewers last year. He’s 38 years old now.

Scott Feldman spent the grand majority of last season as a reliever after making five starts. He fared well with the Astros, with a 2.90 ERA in 62.0 innings, before getting rocked to the tune of an 8.40 ERA in 15.0 innings with the Blue Jays.

With the Phillies last year, David Hernandez had a 3.84 ERA and 4.32 FIP in 72.2 innings of relief. He’ll turn 32 in May and has always had a penchant for striking out opposing hitters, but he’s also given up a bunch of home runs along the way. The home ballparks he’s played in—in Baltimore, Arizona, and Philadelphia—have played a role, as he’s given up half a home run less per nine innings on the road.

Luke Hochevar is looking to make his way back from surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and he had Tommy John surgery that cost him his 2014 season. When healthy, he’s been pretty good as a reliever, though his pre-Tommy John 2013 season was by far his best.

It doesn’t sound like Greg Holland will be anywhere near the Mets’ price range, but his relatively high demands haven’t been met by any team. Like Hochevar, he pitched for the Royals for his entire career before hitting free agency. He missed last season because of Tommy John surgery.

J.P. Howell had a 4.09 ERA last year. He’s left-handed and could be something of a poor man’s Jerry Blevins if the Mets were to bring him on board.

Despite not having a high strikeout rate, Tommy Hunter managed to put up a 3.18 ERA last year, albeit in just 34.0 innings. Since moving from the rotation to the bullpen with the Orioles a few years ago, he’s generally been good.

Edwin Jackson only pitched 10.2 innings in relief last year, and he did as poorly in that role as he had as a starter, with a 5.89 ERA overall.

Kevin Jepsen was very bad for the Twins last year and got released. He finished the year with the Rays and had a 5.98 ERA and 6.15 FIP in total. On a season-to-season basis, he’s been volatile, though he did put together a 2.47 ERA in 134.2 innings of relief with the Angels between 2014 and 2015.

Boone Logan is one of the other lefties still on the market, and he struck out an impressive 11.07 batters per nine last year and had a 3.69 ERA despite pitching for the Rockies. Maybe it’s the long offseason talking, but the more you look at his track record, the easier it is to write off his bad 2014 season and see him as a potentially valuable member of the Mets’ bullpen.

There’s a chance that the left-handed Javier Lopez retires, depending on whether or not he gets an offer from an east coast team. He had a 4.05 ERA and 5.40 FIP last year for the Giants, and he’s 39 years old. He was good for several years before last season, though.

Seth Maness has gotten by with low strikeout rates, but his 4.55 per nine last year marked his lowest rate in a season thus far. He had a 3.41 ERA for the Cardinals in 31.2 innings with them.

Peter Moylan had a 3.43 ERA with the Royals last year over 44.2 innings, his highest innings total in a season, by far, since 2010. He’s been effective most of the time that he’s been healthy, but health has been the question over his career.

Joe Nathan is 42 years old now and threw just 6.1 innings last year for the Cubs and Giants in his return from Tommy John surgery. He had a 4.81 ERA and 3.94 FIP in 2014.

Having spent the grand majority of his career as a starter until 2015, Bud Norris still made 30 starts over the past two seasons but worked out of the bullpen for significant stretches, too. He had a 5.42 ERA as a starter last year and a 3.74 ERA as a reliever.

It’s hard to imagine Jonathan Papelbon signing anywhere at this point after the way his time with the Nationals ended last year, but maybe he’ll come to terms with not being a closer anymore and end up somewhere. It probably won’t be with the Mets.

Yusmeiro Petit would make for a nice story since he was once part of the Mets’ minor league system. He had a rough 2016 season, which he finished with a 4.50 ERA and 4.65 FIP, all of which he spent with the Nationals.

The brother of Colby Rasmus, Cory Rasmus had a 5.84 ERA last year and has had an ERA greater than 5.00 in three of his four major league seasons.

Sergio Romo had a home run problem last year but still posted good strikeout and walk rates and had a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings. Whether or not he’ll hold up health-wise is a fair question, but he’s had a great career and will only turn 34 in March.

It might be something of a distant memory at this point, but Fernando Salas did well in his time with the Mets last year. He hadn’t fared that well over the past season-and-a-half before that, but maybe something clicked for him with the Mets. Or maybe it was just a weird result over 17.1 innings.

Joe Smith is another former Mets pitcher, and he’s been away from the organization for a while. He had a ton of success, too, but he had a 3.46 ERA and 4.99 FIP last year with the Angels and Cubs.

Although he pitched in San Diego, Carlos Villanueva had a 5.96 ERA and 5.17 FIP last year. His best major league season came in 2015 as a member of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Chien-Ming Wang missed all of 2014 and 2015 but had a relatively successful season last year as he pitched 53.1 innings for the Royals and had a 4.22 ERA. His season ended early last year when the Royals released him in September.

It might seem like a long time ago, but Tom Wilhelmsen isn’t that far removed from being a very good reliever. Last year was a different story, however: 6.80 ERA, 6.38 FIP.

Jerome Williams threw just 17.1 innings for the Cardinals last year and struggled.

Travis Wood is a lefty and has done well since switching from the Cubs’ rotation to the bullpen. He has a 2.83 ERA in 124.0 innings in that role over the past two seasons. He’s been far more effective against left-handed hitters over that span, as you might expect for a left-handed relief pitcher.

Vance Worley is still around and had a 3.53 ERA for the Orioles last year. Since switching from starting to relieving—most of the time, anyway—he has a 3.09 ERA in 105.0 innings.

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Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that the Mets were among the teams still looking for bullpen help. Some of the pitchers left on the market will certainly get more than that, but it would be disappointing to see the Mets miss out on potential major league bargains if some of the better pitchers on this list end up making a lot less than everyone expected when the offseason began.

If the Mets don’t add anyone from outside the organization, it’s possible that the bullpen will still be good. But just like it’s better to have Neil Walker as Plan A at second base, it would be better to have a couple more first options to fill spots in the major league bullpen. That would allow the Mets to turn to the players they already have in the event that someone falters or gets hurt, and given the short time before players report to spring training, it might not even cost that much money.