In early May, the Mets’ pitching staff was a little banged up. Steven Matz and Jason Vargas were both dealing with ailments, and Justin Wilson and Jeurys Familia were both on the injured list. With the team needing a spot starter who could also throw out of the bullpen, the Mets decided to make a small move to acquire Wilmer Font from the Rays in exchange for minor league pitcher Neraldo Catalina.
Font was not the boldest acquisition, but he was a somewhat interesting piece. Even though he had an overall ERA of 5.93 in 2018, he had just a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings with the Rays last year, who are known to turn undervalued commodities into useful players. That said, Font had a 5.78 ERA in ten games with the Rays this year, and the Mets were going to be his fourth team in the last two years.
Font’s first three appearances for the Mets were spot starts in place of an injured Vargas. He didn’t go more than four innings in any of those starts, totaling just 10.1 innings over the three outings, and allowing 9 earned runs.
Font moved to the bullpen from there, where he threw some nice innings mostly in mop-up duty. From May 25 to June 20, Font tossed 13.0 innings and only allowed one earned run, which is a nice 0.69 ERA.
The Mets then tried to increase Font’s situational leverage, putting him in a high leverage situation on June 30 against the Phillies and tasked him with nursing a 5-2 lead with two runners on in the sixth inning. Font not only allowed both inherited runners to score, but was charged with three more runs after that. The Mets lost the game 7-5.
Font went back to mop-up duty after that, and a few weeks later, he was designated for assignment on July 12 to make room on the 40-man roster for Chris Mazza. In total, Font went 1-3 with a 4.94 ERA in his stint with the Mets.
A few days later, the Mets traded Font to the Blue Jays for cash—and stop me if you’ve heard this one before—but Font found much more success after leaving the Mets. He posted a 3.66 ERA in 39.1 innings for the Blue Jays, pitching mostly as an opener—the role which he was often deployed in with the Rays. On top of that, those numbers are skewed a bit by the final week of the season, as he had a 2.65 ERA in his first 34.0 innings with the Jays before struggling in his last few outings of the year.
That aside, the need to trade for Font underlined a more pressing issue for the Mets: that they need to do a better job of building starting pitching and reliever depth going into the season. Good teams shouldn’t have to bring in a pitcher like Font to start games for them after only a few injuries.