Mets Pitching Staff May Become a Concern
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Friday, December 1, 2006

A few months after boasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, the Mets are now being forced to address a myriad of concerns.

A month after finding out that Guillermo Mota would miss the first 50 games of the 2007 season after being suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and three weeks after trading relievers Heath Bell and Royce Ring, the Mets lost Chad Bradford, who signed a three-year, 10.5 million dollar contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

"For me, it was all positive when [Danny Baez] signed [with the Orioles]," Bradford told MLB.com. "If you want a good bullpen, you've got to have more than one good guy. You've got to have more than just a closer. In New York we had a lot of good relievers, and I thought that made the bullpen better."

However, with the availability of Roberto Hernandez and Darren Oliver for next season unknown, in leaving, Bradford may have left a spot open in the Mets bullpen that won’t be filled next season. To counteract the loss of Bradford, the Mets may be forced to convert starters like Alay Soler, Brian Bannister or Phillip Humber into relievers.

Rumors have also been circulating regarding the status of Mike Pelfrey as well, who may be looked at to fill the void left by Bradford. Currently working on his secondary pitches in winter ball, Pelfrey’s plus fastball may be much more effective out of the pen and may give the Mets the added depth in the pen they’re looking for. If Pelfrey doesn’t get moved to the pen, the Mets will still have the returning Juan Padilla, who missed the entire 2006 season due to injury and Pedro Feliciano to backup Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez. Even with that considered however, the Mets may still lack the depth in the pen next year that contributed so heavily to their success last year.

Aside from the bullpen, the Mets will also have to figure out what they want to do with the likes of Victor Zambrano, Oliver Perez, David Williams and other starting pitchers that don’t seem to figure into next season’s plans. Also considering that Pedro Martinez won’t be available until the second half of next season, re-signing Tom Glavine and signing someone like Barry Zito or Mark Mulder don’t look like they will help matters much either.

In order for the Mets to reclaim their NL East crown, they will have to try and combine the youthful exuberance of players like Humber, Bannister and John Maine with the veteran ability of Orlando Hernandez and a solid free agent pick up. This in effect may send Lastings Milledge out of New York after a frustrating rookie reason. Lambasted by the media for being arrogant and immature in his first season in Flushing, Milledge may be the bargaining chip the Mets need to pick up a solid number three or four starting pitcher that can help them stop the bleeding on their staff.

Ever since Omar Minaya became the GM of the Mets, every off-season has been an interesting one, chock full of signings and rumors. With the Mets desperate need of pitching to continue until they make a move, that trend is most likely to continue.