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Mets' Bullpen Predictions As Plausible As Yours

With the addition of Adam Ottavino back in the mix and the completion of a deal with 37-year-old LHP Jake Diekman, the Mets’ bullpen appears set. Rookie manager Carlos Mendoza will have plenty of veteran arms to call upon in 2024 with LHP Brooks Raley and RHPs Jorge Lopez and Drew Smith. While that's the expected foundation to get the ball to Edwin Diaz in the 9th; expectations are always easier to calculate on paper.

This is where David Stearns is supposed to shine, right? That’s why everyone was on board with the current President of Baseball Operations (POBO); his ability to build a complete roster with useful players from top to bottom. That’s why the Milwaukee Brewers were able to stay relevant in the NL Central during his run and what’s always seemed to plague the Mets in recent years.

It was the momentary magic of Patrick Mazeika late in 2022, Daniel Murphy coming alive late in 2015 and Endy Chavez scaling the wall in 2006; making the greatest catch easily forgotten due to the outcome. Similar to how we’ll quickly forget how Ravens star Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw a 30-yard touchdown pass after stiff-arming defenders like a video game, then caught a deflected pass and gained positive yards. We’ve already forgotten that this is the POBO we wanted, only that the Brewers never reached the World Series. For this fanbase to remember the good and the bad; someone from a bullpen full of strangers will need to become a star; for a few moments anyway.

It’s been this part of the roster that consistently seems to doom the Mets. But few teams, if any, get their entire bullpen correct at the beginning of the season. Hence the number of trades every deadline as teams look to ensure the same part of the roster they crowed about a few months prior. With that said, here are some predictions for the names you won’t know until they do something to make you remember. Like give up a lead at Truist Park in Atlanta a few days after leaving Port St. Lucie or surprising everyone with a clean 6th inning against the heart of the Phillies’ lineup during their trip to London in June.

All facts listed below are real. Any details are fictional, just like forecasting actions about the most consistently random roster spot in the sport.

RHP Michael Tonkin

Tonkin is a low-risk signing who could help this bullpen eat innings like he did last season for the Braves when he posted a 1.08 WHIP across 45 appearances and ended with the fourth most innings pitched on the team. Tonkin started the season well enough, but the seven-game homestand to start May ends with a 1:10 pm home game against the Cubs. After the game, he visited a Burger King with a coupon for two chicken sandwiches and fries for $6.99. The bun was burned on one side and the other didn’t include the patty and the French Fries were plain and nothing like the side dishes in his hometown of Palmdale, CA. Whether it was throwing angry or with indigestion; appearances on that road trip were subpar at best.

RHP Sean Reid-Foley

In June 2021, Reid-Foley was recalled from Syracuse after the team placed Marcus Stroman on the bereavement list. He made 12 appearances that season with the team going 3-9. The two appearances made in place of Stroman were a scoreless 7th inning in an 8-4 loss to the Nationals and the less said about his appearance two days later in Atlanta, the better. For the record, he faced seven batters and allowed five runs on four hits, only getting one out in a 20-2 loss. I did say the less said about it, the better. But Reid-Foley buried those memories in the past, throwing his best stuff of the season during the late July stretch against the Yankees in the Bronx and a four-game series against Atlanta at Citi Field.

RHP Phil Bickford

The biggest reason for Bickford’s acquisition is reliability, having made 55-plus appearances in three of his four big league seasons. But with a career ERA of 4.43, it’s easy to see why the Mets were able to acquire Bickford at the end of 2023 from a playoff-bound Los Angeles Dodgers team for straight cash, homie. The 28-year-old is under team control until 2027, but the better question is how long he’ll throw with dirty blonde locks flowing freely from his cap since some Mets fans already consider him a bust.

LHP Josh Walker

Otisville, NY is home to both medium and minimum-security state prisons. Both penitentiaries are adjacent to a federal prison, and all are nearby a less-familiar tri-state junction between New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is the environment Walker was raised in, graduating high school about 10 miles south in Slate Hill. However, the 6-foot-6 pitcher never lost the toughness gained by growing up sleeping distance from criminals. Last year, that grit showed while in Syracuse, posting a 1.84 ERA in 29 innings with a 1.091 WHIP. Unfortunately it wasn’t visible during a brief stint in Queens, but with a minimum of left-handed relievers Walker will get  a chance to make fans forget about losing on a walk-off balk in Kansas City last August.

LHP Nate Lavender

Born and bred in Illinois, the 24-year old has his southpaw status on his side since his numbers from his time at the University of Illinois and during his few seasons in the minors hasn’t shown much. He was briefly shown the real Brooklyn while playing Single-A, stepping off the train in the wrong direction and walking into a flashback to the past. Some ruffians were in an argument about Istanbul, not Constantinople. He leaned into his time in 2023 backing up the Major League pitching staff in Port St. Lucie; showed off a new changeup grip and actually utilized his history and political science degree to talk his way out of trouble by reminding said ruffians that it was nobody’s business but the Turks. 

“This is what I want to do. I think that’s a decision I made in college,” Lavender said, “And if you’re going to do it, then give it all you’ve got.”

He pitched his way out of trouble in Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season, finishing with a 298 ERA and 86 strikeouts over 54.1 innings pitched.

RHP Yohan Ramirez

The loudest thing isn’t his career 3.99 ERA scattered between four teams over the past four seasons. If you’re a “baseball nerd” and love analytics; in 124 big league innings, Ramirez has held batters to a .215/.350/.357 slash line, doesn’t give up many home runs and has a lower exit velocity than the league average. But what will remain quiet is the source of the $100,000 used to acquire Ramirez from the Chicago White Sox. Was it from a briefcase full of bearer bonds removed from a crime scene at a military arms warehouse, quietly redistributed amongst any and all Americans affected by a bad businessman with a famous but forgettable face? Am I recalling the final moments of the Season 2 finale of Reacher? Is something similar just as likely?

RHP Austin Adams

Adams was a hard-throwing righty that lost the strike zone at times, but that was before a strained right forearm and resulting flexor tendon surgery limited him to two appearances in 2022. Adams will operate with a non-guaranteed split contract and not much has been reported about him since his signing on Dec. 1. One could argue he’s fallen off the radar, disappeared into the darkness before baseball season filled with football scores and other things to fill the time before pitchers and catchers. But he would make his presence felt during a three-game series at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Growing up and attending school in Tampa, Adams channeled the frustration of his family and friends for having to leave Tampa via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to watch a team with their city’s name on their jersey. An audible cheering section assisted Adams while also giving Kodai Senga an additional day off.

RHP Shintaro Fujinami

For this season to be successful, the bullpen must be a strength and POBO must be right on the many low-risk, high-upside signings. The Luis Severino gamble is the obvious must, but corralling the hard-throwing Japanese righty would be the proverbial cherry on top. It’s a $3.35 million bet he’ll be better than the 7.18 ERA over 79 innings with eight wild pitches and seven hit-by-pitches (HBP). Command is the obvious issue, but he did finish ten games for the 101-win Baltimore Orioles last year and had a 4.85 ERA over 30 innings. It’s an absolute long-shot, but the contract is the key. There are an additional $850,000 worth of potential incentives, but there’s also no language preventing the Boras Corporation client from being optioned to the minors. For all the fears of Pete Alonso’s upcoming free agency, it appears POBO, Steve Cohen and Scott Boras are on good terms. Fujinami is being paid $3 million, but could start the season in Syracuse, buying everyone in Appleby’s a drink. This is Uncle Stevie’s money being quietly spent wisely.

RHP Reed Garrett

A waiver claim last June after the Mets traded David Robertson, he threw 17 innings over nine games last year finishing with a 5.82 ERA. Of those nine games, the team lost the first eight. Garrett threw a scoreless inning in six of his nine appearances. He struck out at least three batters in four of those appearances. The two warts were against his former team in Baltimore and mop-up duty in the first game of a doubleheader against Atlanta. The Baseball-Reference projection says Garrett, who’s currently not guaranteed a spot with the big club, will throw 36 innings with a 4.75 ERA including two HBPs and a wild pitch. But what if that really should have been a passed ball because catcher Francisco Alvarez wasn’t squatting in a position to block the ball. How do the projections count for that?

RHP Grant Hartwig

A new cutter added to his arsenal of sinkers and sliders (coming from a low angle) helped him hold batters to a .159 average against lefties. The numbers were nearly double that against right-handed batters, so he’s worked on his command of pitches and is confident the amulet will do the rest. It was glowing on its own when found on the road outside Kansas City, Kansas. Why was Hartwig in Kansas City anyway? Was it for the BBQ or was he lost after a game, which would be something particular since the closest Triple-AAA team is in Des Moines, Iowa and that’s about 200 miles north on I-35. But the light did diminish as he crossed the state line into Kansas City, Missouri and that’s what’s important. The amulet is safe now. It is precious…

RHP Kyle Crick

Crick has a career 3.56 ERA but he hasn't thrown a pitch in an MLB game since 2022. The hope is returning to his form from five years ago when he had a 2.39 ERA over 60 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Signed to a minor league deal, his experience is what gets his name posted higher than others. That and a calf strain that will sideline him for most of spring training. What he does after that and beyond is best left to the imagination and that’s the truth.

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