With Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Luke Hendricks, and several of the other higher end relief pitchers off the market, the Mets are still in need of some bullpen help. While there may not be a slam dunk candidate still on the market, there are a number of intriguing choices, many of whom could be had on the cheaper side. None of these guys are surefire hits, but for the price, they should all be seriously considered. Plus, they all have history in Queens, and who doesn’t love a good reunion?
The former Met/Astro/(on paper) Red Sox pitcher did not throw in 2020, due to an injured elbow not responding as well as Boston and McHugh had hoped. That will only drive the price down on McHugh, who signed last season for a $600k base salary with incentives. A similar deal would likely bring him back to Queens, if not a minor league deal.
McHugh is one of the more interesting and cerebral players in the majors, and would fit in nicely with the Trevor Mays and Dom Smiths the Mets already have, from a clubhouse perspective. But it’s his pitching that the Mets need and, despite a down 2019, McHugh still looks able to contribute going into his age 34 season.
Over his career, McHugh averaged just under one strikeout per inning, while being quite adept at limiting home runs. His BB/9 ballooned up to 3.6 in 2019, but if he was able to come back down to his career norm of 2.6, he would be a cheap and reliable long reliever or spot starter. While his fastball velocity has been up and down over the past few seasons, a move to the bullpen would likely increase it a tick, though if he’s a long man, it would likely not show too much improvement.
I know that for a certain subset of Mets fans, Oliver Perez is a name that sends shivers down their spine and bile into their throats. I won’t deny that Perez was shaky during his tenure in Queens, but it’s his post-Mets career that I’m really looking at. Since leaving the Mets, Perez has not started a game, and has seen his performance improve immensely.
While Perez has not been worth 1 bWAR since 2019, he has only had one negative value season since transitioning into relief full time, and that was back in the 2015 season split between Arizona and Houston. Aside from the shortened 2020 season, he’s only had one other relief season - 2012 - where he averaged less than 10 K/9, and he’s managed to more or less pitch to his peripherals as well, usually seeing less than a run differential between his ERA and FIP.
As Perez has aged - and aged he has, as he turns 40 in August - his splits have become more extreme as well. He’s far more of a lefty specialist at this point in his career and with the three-batter rule still in place, that makes Perez less valuable than someone with more crossover potential. But without a clear lefty option out of the bullpen, and especially if the Mets can get him down from his $2.5 million 2021 salary, Perez still makes a lot of sense.
Plus, his recent mustache game is strong.
Longtime Amazin’ Avenue fans will know the ballad of Yusmeiro Petit, once a highly regarded Mets prospect who was dealt with Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado in 2005. Petit, entering his age 36 season, has found a lot of success as a relief pitcher of late, especially in Oakland, where over his three seasons, he never saw his ERA rise over 3.00 or his walk rate crack 2.2/9 (and the high of 2.1/9 was a result of the shortened 2020 season). While not a strikeout pitcher, Petit keeps the ball in the park and limits baserunners nicely.
Likely the most expensive player of the three - his last two seasons have seen him commanding a $5.5 million average annual value - Petit seems like the most likely to repeat his current success. Before 2020, he was averaging more than an inning per appearance, and has never shown extreme platoon splits, though in 2020 all three of his home runs were given up to right-handed batters.
With an improved infield defense behind him, Petit seems like he would be a natural fit in Queens.
Yes, there is a fair amount of nostalgia and the desire to ‘get the band back together’ with these three picks, but relief pitchers are a mercurial bunch, who often have vastly different seasons year to year. These three pitchers, but especially Perez and Petit, are about as consistent as relievers get, and can likely be brought in with minimal commitment, either in terms of years or salary, if the Luxury Tax threshold is of major concern to the Mets’ front office.
Bring them home, Sandy.