Welcome to One Last Move, where our writers pitch a move to the Mets that would close out their offseason and make the team better in 2019.
The Mets have made significant additions to their bullpen this off-season. Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson are all legitimate late inning arms that improve on one of the worst bullpens in baseball last year. Still, more additions would be helpful. The opening day bullpen will likely consist of the aforementioned trio along with Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Kyle Dowdy, followed by one or two of the Mets plethora of fringey, upper-minors relievers. That’s hardly an encouraging group, and seeing Paul Sewald or Tim Peterson log significant innings with the big-league club again would be extremely disappointing.
Enter Tony Sipp. A left-handed pitcher without platoon splits, Sipp quietly had one of the best seasons of any reliever in baseball last season. Over 38.2 innings, he struck out more than a batter per inning, ran a BB/9 of 3.03, and did a fantastic job of limiting home runs en route to a 78 cFIP and a 60.1 DRA-, both of which ranked in the top-35 among pitchers with at least 30 IP.
That strong 2018 came after two rough seasons, during which Sipp had a HR/FB just over 20% and registered an ERA over five. Somewhat counter-intuitively, Sipp dropped his sinker in 2018 and cut his HR/FB by almost 90%, down to a stupendously low 2.6%. He also saw a slight velocity bump across the board, which likely helped as well. Perhaps relying on a pitch with slightly more rise (though he still uses his fastball primarily down in the zone) allowed Sipp to induce more soft or medium contact on fly balls, thus solving his gopher-itis. Even if some of the improvement was just small-sample-size noise, Sipp could regress to a 12% HR/FB (his career average) and still be an above-average reliever.
In past years, the Mets might’ve signed Sipp or someone like him as their big free agent relief addition, and that would’ve been an objectively bad and cheap move. However, as the final addition to a bullpen that has seen three major acquisitions this season, Sipp makes perfect sense. He’d give the Mets a 7th inning option that projects as above-average and has a recent track record of elite performance while bumping one of the Mets’ underwhelming internal options back to Triple-A. Further, Sipp is a viable late inning option in case of injury to Diaz or Familia, both of whom have had recent arm issues. At a cost of $5 million or less, Sipp would make for a great last move.