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The Mets continue to monitor the market for left-handed relievers

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After losing Josh Edgin to Tommy John surgery, the Mets are currently in search of a left-hander out of their bullpen. Brian Matusz of the Orioles has been mentioned as a possibility for a couple of weeks now, but the club has cast a pretty wide net.

Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reports that the Mets are keeping an eye on J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, and Adam Liberatore from the Dodgers in case one of them becomes available. That’s no sure thing, as Howell is costly and he’s one of the only (healthy) locks in the Dodgers’ bullpen while Rodriguez and Liberatore still have options remaining.

Meanwhile, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York hears that New York is still intrigued by Rex Brothers from the Rockies. Brothers, who struggled to the tune of a 5.59 ERA over 74 appearances last season, was mentioned as a possible fit back when Dillon Gee was linked in trade talks with Colorado in December.

The Mets do have some internal options from the left side, but they aren’t pretty. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin is still in camp, as well as non-roster invitee Scott Rice and minor leaguer Dario Alvarez. While a trade is a possibility, the Mets could see some names shake loose from other camps in the coming days.

Mets monitoring the left-handed reliever market

Josh Edgin
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With lefty reliever Josh Edgin dealing with elbow troubles which could result in Tommy John surgery, the Mets are keeping an eye on the market for left-handed relievers, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports.

Rubin cites Sam Freeman of the Cardinals and Xavier Cedeno of the Nationals, both of whom are out of options with their respective teams. Freeman, 27, has a career 3.33 ERA and a 61/34 K/BB ratio over 70 1/3 innings. Cedeno, 28, has a career 5.19 ERA and a 50/22 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.

If the Mets decide to stay in-house for lefties, Scott Rice, Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez, and Jack Leathersich are potential options.

Mets sign Duane Below

Duane Below Getty

According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Mets have signed left-hander Duane Below to a minor league contract. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York notes that he will not receive an invite to major league camp.

Below previously appeared in the majors with the Tigers and Marlins, posting a 4.23 ERA over 40 relief appearances and three starts. He had a brief stint with the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization in 2013. The 29-year-old mostly pitched as a starter last season with the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate and compiled a 3.70 ERA and 62/41 K/BB ratio over 116 2/3 innings.

Josh Edgin is the lone lock as a left-hander in New York’s bullpen, so it’s still possible that Below will be considered this spring. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin along with Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Darin Gorski, and Jack Leathersich are the other current candidates as second left-handers.

Terry Collins basically admits he overworked Scott Rice

Scott Rice

Last season Mets manager Terry Collins was criticized for overusing rookie left-hander Scott Rice, who appeared in 73 of the team’s first 137 games before needing hernia surgery in early September.

This season Rice is struggling and Collins more or less admitted yesterday that he thinks it’s because of the huge 2013 workload, telling Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

The guy pitched in 73 games last year. And a lot of times the next year, when you pitch in that many games for the first time in your life, your arm doesn’t bounce back real fast. It takes a little time. I’ve seen it where, unfortunately, you’ve got to go through it.

That’s sort of a “hey, what are you gonna do?” response to a question that I’m sure Rice at least feels probably deserves more thought. With that said, Rice was a 31-year-old rookie who finally made the big leagues after 14 years in the minors and, based on his lengthy track record there, it’s possible that he’s simply a borderline major leaguer. We may never know for sure, though, because Collins rode him so hard right away.

2014 Preview: New York Mets

Zack Wheeler Getty

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

The Big Question: Can the Mets finish with 80 or more wins for the first time since 2008? 

After abstaining from the free agent market last off-season, the Mets jumped in and signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million deal to patrol the outfield at Citi Field. The Mets had some newfound financial flexibility with Johan Santana and Jason Bay’s contracts off the books. They also added starter Bartolo Colon with a two-year, $20 million deal – their answer to losing Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery.

However, the Mets didn’t do a whole lot aside from signing Granderson and Colon. They signed Chris Young to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. He’ll play opposite Granderson in right field.

The Mets will be relying on a lot of young players, including top prospect Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. In his first taste of the big leagues last season, d’Arnaud struggled, posting a .548 OPS in 112 plate appearances.

The bullpen is another area of youth. Bobby Parnell is expected to be the closer after recovering from a neck injury during the second half of the 2013 season. Parnell has been quite reliable, averaging at least three strikeouts for every one walk and posting a sub-3.00 ERA in three out of the last four seasons. Behind Parnell, Scott Rice and Kyle Farnsworth may be the only members born prior to 1986.

What else is going on?  

  • The Mets are reluctantly going with Ruben Tejada at shortstop to start the season.  Many expected them to wind up with Stephen Drew, who is still a free agent. Tejada posted a .519 OPS last season and the team wasn’t thrilled with his conditioning. Something will give between now and the trade deadline; it’s unlikely the Mets stick with him at shortstop, especially if they are competitive in the first half.
  • Lucas Duda and Ike Davis are battling it out for the job at first base. The loser will wind up on the bench and likely traded. Duda posted a .767 OPS in 384 plate appearances last season, spending a majority of his playing time in left field. Davis had a nightmare season, posting an even .500 OPS before a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas in mid-June. When he returned to the Mets on July 5, he was much improved. He didn’t rediscover his power stroke, but he cut down on the strikeouts and drew more walks. From July 5 through the end of the season, Davis drew 38 walks and struck out 35 times in 170 plate appearances.
  • The Mets have another positional battle in center field. Juan Lagares was great there defensively last season, but left a lot to be desired with the bat. The Mets lack a lead-off hitter as well, and that could spur them to give Eric Young, Jr. a shot. In the event Young beats out Lagares, Lagares could start at Triple-A. Young would start in left, Granderson would move to right, and Young would move to center.
  • The Mets are hoping Zack Wheeler can be to them in 2014 as Harvey was last season. Wheeler made 17 starts in 2013, finishing with a 3.42 ERA in an even 100 innings. He walked a few too many – 44 unintentionally – so he would have to improve his control. But he’s 23 years old and the sky is the limit for the right-hander 

Prediction: The Mets are better than they were last season, even without Matt Harvey. They could go back and forth with the Phillies between third and fourth place throughout the season, but I have them ultimately finishing ahead of the Phillies in third place in the NL East.