Coming off a successful season in 2016, it seemed Jerry Blevins would seek a long-term contract elsewhere. The Mets’ front office has generally been adverse to handing out big contracts to relievers, and the free agent market for relievers was flush with cash. Brett Cecil, another left-handed reliever on the market, signed a four-year, $30.5 million contract with the Cardinals early in the offseason, and a few weeks later it was reported that Blevins was seeking a similar deal.
As the offseason progressed and potential suitors for the reliable 33-year-old dwindled, the Mets became interested in a reunion with the popular lefty. They eventually re-signed him to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million with a team option for 2018.
The Mets have other lefty options for the bullpen in Joshes Smoker and Edgin, but neither are as consistently reliable as Blevins. After an injury-shortened 2015 season, Blevins returned in 2016 as the lefty specialist and was very successful. Primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher, he finished the season 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 42 innings. He also had an impressive rate of 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which was a career high.
He was almost equally tough on both left- and right-handed hitters. He held lefties to a .255 batting average with 35 strikeouts in 113 plate appearances, but there was no significant drop-off in production from Blevins against right-handed batters last season. He was more prone to giving up home runs against righties, but overall he held them to a .182 average with seventeen strikeouts in 65 plate appearances.
Blevins also picked up a couple of saves last season, which gives some evidence that he can pitch well in the late innings. If Blevins can be versatile enough to get both lefties and righties out again this year, he’ll give manager Terry Collins another option to bridge the gap to the ninth inning, especially since Jeurys Familia will most likely be suspended at the beginning of the season.
Off the field, Blevins is known for his popular “Hello Jerry” segment, which already had its season premiere with special guest David Wright.
One thing is clear. The Mets will need someone to get the powerful left-handed bats of the National League East out in the late innings this season. Blevins had one memorable battle with Daniel Murphy, and if he can repeat his past success, that role will be in capable hands.