By Jon Remache
Published: May 17th, 2017
The New York Mets once again find themselves in search of a placeholder—this time at the closer position—and although the role is usually handed to the setup man, Jerry Blevins has proven that he should be offered the role.
With Jeurys Familia undergoing surgery to remove an anterior blood clot in his pitching shoulder, the Mets find themselves with an even shorter bullpen. Blevins posted an 0.73 Earned Run Average (ERA) with 17 strikeouts in 12.1 innings in early May, and he shows no sign of slowing down.
While Blevins has only faced 11 right-handed hitters this year who have three hits and drew three walks, he’s only allowed one run to them. Last season featured a larger sample size, as Blevins faced 55 right-handed batters while allowing only ten hits and ten runs and walking seven, which equates to a .182 opposing batting average against righties.
Addison Reed has inherited the role of closer, and while he is four-for-four in save opportunities, he hasn’t exactly been a great closer previously. In 2012, Reed recorded 29 saves while only blowing four saves; but his ERA was 4.75. The following season he recorded 40 saves, but he blew eight and finished with a 3.79 ERA. In 2014, Reed saved 32 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, while blowing six saves and ending the year with a 4.25 ERA. Last year, Reed earned one save for the Mets while blowing four.
The argument can be made that Reed is best suited as the Mets setup man, a role in which he has thrived since arriving in New York. While Blevins has four career saves with ten blown saves in 11 seasons, he is a lot more experienced in his service as a relief pitcher who could be better equipped with the mental challenge that an entirely new role would bring.
Blevins is earning $5.5 million compared to Reed’s $5.3 million salary, which is interesting considering the Mets signed Blevins for the sole purpose of pitching against left-handed batters. On the other hand, Reed is expected to pitch the crucial eighth and now ninth innings of games, and yet their salaries are nearly identical.
Blevins has been the most consistent relief pitcher for the Mets this season, likely because he hasn’t been overused, like Hansel Robles, who is currently at 20 innings pitched. The workload wouldn’t hurt Blevins, or at least the Mets would hope not. In the meantime, Josh Edgin Is there to take on the role of a lefty specialist. Or, perhaps the Mets have a potential minor league call-up. There are also possible trade scenarios, as a left-handed specialist is a lot cheaper than a closer in the current market.
While the move would be drastic for Blevins, it would be good to give him a chance as the interim setup man to gain familiarity with the role before ultimately taking over the closer role. Manager Terry Collins has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him thus far in the season, so it wouldn’t hurt to try something unconventional.