Earlier today, Joe D posted a blog (on Mets Merized Online) suggesting that picking up J.J. Putz’s option would be a waste of money. I happen to agree with his position. Putz’s option is way too much for a man who has been a shadow of himself due to various injuries. There are other less expensive options the Mets could consider if they would like someone other than Putz to pitch the eighth inning. For example, how about free agent reliever Brandon Lyon?
Brandon Lyon had a great season out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers in 2009. He finished the season with a 6-5 record and a 2.86 ERA. He also finished with a sparkling 1.11 WHIP. The thing I found most impressive about Lyon’s season was how he fared against righties and lefties. He held righties to a .205 average and held lefties to the same .205 average. Plus, despite the fact that he is a right-handed pitcher, he gave up only one home run to a left-handed batter in 112 at-bats.
Lyon’s effectiveness against lefties would help the Mets in two ways. First, he wouldn’t have to be taken out of the game whenever the opposing lineup alternated between lefties and righties. In 65 games for the Tigers, he pitched 78.2 innings, meaning he could go more than one inning when needed, which would save the bullpen from being overused. Second, he would give Perpetual Pedro a much needed break. In 2009, Pedro Feliciano set the all-time franchise record for appearances by a reliever. Since he was the only pitcher who was consistently effective against lefties (they hit .215 against Feliciano in 2009), Jerry Manuel was constantly going to him, eventually pitching him in 88 games after he was used 86 times in 2008. Brandon Lyon would allow Manuel to give Feliciano more breaks in 2010, allowing him to remain sharp for the entire season.
Also, Brandon Lyon is a much cheaper alternative to J.J. Putz. The Tigers paid Lyon $4.25 million to pitch for them in 2009. Although Lyon’s good season has him in line for a raise, it should still be less than the money the Mets would have to give Putz to keep his injury-prone self around. Lyon’s age (30) should also attract the Mets, as Putz will be 33 before Opening Day.
Lyon is projected to be a Type B free agent, but that should not factor into the decision, as Lyon’s positives far outweigh his negatives, which as of now, is just his Type B free agent status. Let’s not forget that one of the things Omar Minaya was being praised for last season when he traded for Putz. He made a big deal about Putz being able to close games should something happen to Francisco Rodriguez. Well, Brandon Lyon also has closer experience, saving 54 games over his career when pressed into the closer’s role.
There might be other options the Mets could consider for the eighth inning role, but if the Tigers choose not to re-sign Brandon Lyon for the 2010 season, the Mets should take a long look at him. He could be the set-up man they’ve been looking for.