Over the past week, the New York Mets have found themselves a new owner and a new center fielder, but the bullpen remains under construction. In part one, we covered the most established names on the open market, focusing on Will Harris, Brandon Kintzler, Daniel Hudson, and Sergio Romo.
Last week, the team brought back Brad Brach on a one-year deal with an option for the 2021 season. To that end. we’ll focus on some familiar names in part two, which I’m dubbing the “Bring Him Home” edition. There are a few players floating out there who have donned the orange and blue before in their career, and their most recently work could entice the team to take a second look at them and potentially spearhead a reunion this winter.
We’ll begin with the pitcher who is the most far-removed from his Mets days: Joe Smith. Smith kicked off his career with the Mets in 2007 and 2008. As part of a bullpen that had a hand in two late-season collapses, Smith pitched admirably overall to the tune of a 3.51 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 1.4 bWAR in 107.2 innings pitched.
Smith saw his brief tenure in Queens come to an end when the team shipped him to the Cleveland Indians in the three-team deal that landed the Mets J.J. Putz. Smith put up similar numbers in his first two years in Cleveland but really blossomed in 2011 as he posted a 2.01 ERA and a 2.91 FIP in a career-high 67.0 innings. He posted a sub-3.00 ERA in four straight seasons, which included his first year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014, while tossing at least 63.0 innings.
His numbers haven’t quite hit that level, although his ERA has typically hovered around 3.50 or lower. He’s spent the last two years with the Houston Astros, posting a 3.74 ERA, a 4.06 FIP, a 1.01 WHIP, and a 0.4 bWAR in 2018 before finishing 2019 with a 1.80 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, a 0.96 WHIP, and a 0.7 bWAR in a limited 25.0 innings after missing the entire first half following surgery to repair a ruptured Achillies tendon. Mets fans may remember Smith fondly for his side-arm delivery, and while he was mostly an afterthought in those bullpens he has put together an all-around respectable 13-year career. The soon-to-be 36-year-old right-hander would be a worthwhile signing that likely would not break the bank and allow for further improvements to the roster while bolstering a weak spot.
The Mets could look to bring back Collin McHugh, a pitcher who enjoyed far less success in New York but blossomed with the Astros as a starting pitcher. In parts of two seasons (2012, 2013) with the Mets, McHugh made five starts and six relief appearances and ended with an 8.26 ERA, a 6.26 FIP, and a 1.77 WHIP before the team sent him to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Eric Young Jr. He fared poorly in Colorado but took off after ending up with the Astros in 2014.
The righty finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 as a starting pitcher, tossing 154.2 innings and pitching to a 2.73 ERA, a 3.11 FIP, a 1.02 WHIP, a 2.4 BB/9, a 9.1 K/9, and a career-best 4.0 bWAR. He followed that up by picking up a career-best 19 wins in 2015 with a 3.89 ERA, a 3.58 FIP, a 1.28 WHIP, and a 2.7 bWAR while making 32 starts and pitching a career-high 203.2 innings, which was good enough to get him in the top-10 in AL Cy Young voting.
After an average 2016 and an injury-plagued 2017, he resurfaced as a relief pitcher in 2018 and finished with a 1.99 ERA, a 2.72 FIP, and a 0.91 WHIP with a 2.0 bWAR in 72.1 innings. He came back to earth in his last season with Houston and posted a 4.70 ERA, a 4.43 FIP, a 1.23 WHIP, and a 0.4 bWAR in 74.2 innings. Despite his recent struggles, he could be intriguing based on the face he can serve as both a bullpen arm who can spot start in a pinch if necessary.
The remaining former Mets on the board all pitched for the team during the second-half of the last decade. Tyler Clippard arrived in Flushing for the playoff push in 2015 and posted a 3.06 ERA, a 4.65 FIP, a 1.05 WHIP, and a 0.3 bWAR in 32.1 innings. However, his playoff performance might turn some off to bringing Clippard back. In eight appearances for the team in the 2015 playoffs, he was charged with five earned runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 6.2 innings while taking the loss in Game 4 of the World Series.
Clippard has bounced around over the last four seasons, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, and Indians. He’s finished each season with at least 60 innings pitched but the success has varied based on the destination. The 35-year-old’s best numbers since leaving the Mets came last season with Cleveland, as he finished with a 2.90 ERA, a 3.89 FIP, a 0.86 WHIP and a 1.4 bWAR in 62.0 innings pitched.
We’ll close this segment with Jerry Blevins, the ex-Met who most recently pitched for the organization. The left-handed Blevins could be an intriguing options, especially since the team is lacking on south paws in the pen. After a dreadful 2018 with the Mets (4.85 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 0.0 bWAR), he was better with Atlanta in 2019 (3.90 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.27 WHIP, 0.3 bWAR). The 13-year veteran had successful 2016 and 2017 seasons in New York, so a reunion could be mutually beneficial.
With Brach under contract already, the team could find some other gems to return to the organization and fortify their bullpen. Of the list, Smith is clearly the best option and would be a solid addition to the team, but any one of these could play a role in helping the Mets in 2020.