Part two of our look at Omar Minaya’s various teams will look at the 2005 Mets relief corps. In case you missed yesterday’s post, this is an objective look at the various moves made by Omar Minaya to try to find what we can learn from his moves, both good and bad. I started with the 2005 starting rotation, now I am going to take a look at Omar’s first bullpen as the general manager of the Mets.
BULLPEN AT THE END OF 2004:
Braden Looper, Mike Stanton, Ricky Bottalico, John Franco, Heath Bell, Tyler Yates, Bartolome Fortunato, Pedro Feliciano, Vic Darensbourg
-Traded Mike Stanton to the New York Yankees for Felix Heredia.
-Allowed John Franco to sign with the Houston Astros as a free agent.
-Allowed Ricky Botallico to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free
-Allowed Vic Darensbourg to sign with the Detroit Tigers as a free
-Sold Pedro Feliciano’s contract to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
-Re-signed Mike DeJean to a one-year contract.
-Signed Dae-Sung Koo to a one-year contract.
-Signed Roberto Hernandez to a minor league contract.
BULLPEN AT THE START OF 2005:
Braden Looper, Roberto Hernandez, Dae-Sung Koo, Manny Aybar, Mike Matthews, Felix Heredia, Mike DeJean
BULLPEN AT THE END OF 2005:
Braden Looper, Roberto Hernandez, Dae-Sung Koo, Aaron Heilman, Heath Bell, Juan Padilla, Shingo Takatsu, Kaz Ishii, Tim Hamulack
ALSO MAKING RELIEF APPEARANCES:
Danny Graves, Royce Ring, Jose Santiago
Mets Reliever WAR:
Aaron Heilman: 1.6
Roberto Hernandez: 0.9
Heath Bell: 0.7
Juan Padilla: 0.5
Manny Aybar: 0.1
Dae-Sung Koo: 0.1
Victor Zambrano: 0.1
Felix Heredia: 0.0
Kaz Ishii: 0.0
Mike Matthews: 0.0
Royce Ring: 0.0
Jose Santiago: 0.0
Shingo Takatsu: -0.2
Mike DeJean: -0.3
Tim Hamulack: -0.3
Danny Graves: -0.4
Braden Looper: -0.6
TOTAL WAR: 2.2
This is the first of what would become a series of bad Mets bullpens assembled by Omar Minaya. This one isn’t entirely on him; he inherited Braden Looper from Jim Duquette, and Looper was by far the worst of these pitchers. It’s amazing to me that Willie didn’t pull him from the closer job until August, which just goes to show how far a pitcher can go with a “Proven Closer(TM)” label. Even more amazing is that the St. Louis Cardinals somehow identified Looper as a pitcher who would be useful as a starter after pitching this poorly as a reliever, and that he actually turned out to be a decent innings-eater for the Cardinals for a few years.
Here’s something I’m wondering; why didn’t the Mets see Aaron Heilman as a potential closer for 2006? He pitched really well in relief, and had a strong strikeout rate, which is usually what teams look for in a dominant late inning guy. I know that they hadn’t completely given up on him as a starter yet, as he competed with Brian Bannister for the 5th starter job in spring training , but it seems that they could have saved themselves $10 million a year by promoting Heilman to the job and better used that money elsewhere. Heilman may not have even been a good choice for the job, but he could have probably done a passable imitation of a closer for a year or two until Heath Bell was ready to take over as closer.
Speaking of Bell, he was a pitcher whose results never quite matched his peripherals in New York, and I’m not entirely sure why. It is a common misconception by Mets fans that Bell stunk while he was here and only turned into a good pitcher in San Diego, but he always posted strong strikeout totals and low walk totals even as a Met. He got victimized by the longball in 2006, and it could be that Willie Randolph’s refusal to give him a regular role hurt his flow, but he always showed strong potential while he was here. It’s sad that he never quite realized that potential as a Met, especially considering that the team has spent over $80 million on closers since 2006.
Overall, this bullpen looks very thrown together. The only guaranteed bullpen spots going into spring training belonged to Looper, Mike DeJean, and the immortal Dae-Sung Koo. That left four spots up for grabs, with the competition consisting of a few in-house Mets candidates (Heath Bell, Royce Ring) and a collection of players signed to minor league deals (Roberto Hernandez, Juan Padilla, Mike Matthews). They did get good years out of Hernandez and Padilla, but most of the other guys they brought in did not work out, which led to them bringing in failures like Shingo Takatsu and Danny Graves, who were even worse. Even DeJean was released in June, and he was making guaranteed money.
This haphazard way of assembling a bullpen, by concentrating on spending top dollar on closers and hoping the rest falls into place, would become a hallmark of the Minaya Years, which I will talk more about in the weeks to come.
Next: The 2005 Mets Outfield