The Mets lost a key member of their 2006 bullpen on Tuesday when right-handed reliever Chad Bradford reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, leaving after one season in New York.
Bradford, 32, was 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA and two saves in 70 appearances for the Mets in 2006. In 67 2/3 innings, Bradford had allowed just one home run, and the submarine-style hurler was considered a strong possibility to return.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya had stated on numerous occasions since the end of the season that the club was in negotiations with Bradford's representatives, entering those discussions at about the same time the team started negotiating contract terms with right-hander Orlando Hernandez.
Without Bradford, the Mets' bullpen projects to take on a much different look for 2007. Billy Wagner will be back as the closer and both Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez should return from surgery to set up, but much of the rest figures to be available in open competition.
Jon Adkins, a right-hander acquired from the San Diego Padres with outfielder Ben Johnson for Heath Bell and Royce Ring earlier this month, should figure into the middle inning mix, and Pedro Feliciano could reprise his role as a left-handed specialist.
Juan Padilla, a right-hander who missed all of 2006 with Tommy John surgery, is also expected to return and would have figured into the mix this past season if healthy.
It is unclear if the Mets will pursue right-hander Guillermo Mota, who posted a 1.00 ERA in 18 regular season appearances after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians but will be unable to pitch until at least late May while he serves a 50-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing substances.
With the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings set to kick off Monday in Orlando, Fla., the state of the Mets' pitching figures to be a primary point of interest.
By that time, left-hander Tom Glavine has promised to inform the Mets if he is interested in returning to New York. The Mets are also likely to enter stages of discussions regarding free agent left-hander Barry Zito.
The Mets reportedly placed a substantial bid for Japanese left-hander Kei Igawa, but their financial numbers came up well shy of the $26 million the Yankees offered the Hanshin Tigers for the pitcher's posting fees.
Filling from within?
Some of the Mets' options to bolster their 2007 pitching staff could include…
Jon Adkins: Boasting some big league experience, righty went 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA in 55 games for San Diego in 2006, allowing 55 hits in 54 1/3 innings.
Brian Bannister: After losing most of his 2006 season to injury, Bannister has been pitching in the Mexican Winter League, hoping to reclaim his lost rotation spot. He is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA in six starts for Tomateros de Culiacan and pitched well in his last start Nov. 17, allowing one run and five hits over seven innings, walking one and fanning five.
Philip Humber: Earning raves from Willie Randolph for a bulldog attitude, Humber came back from Tommy John surgery and was rewarded with his big league debut in September. He could be in the fifth starter's mix.
Juan Padilla: Sitting out all of 2006 following elbow surgery, Padilla is expected to make a complete return. He would have been in the Mets' bullpen plans had he not goine down with soreness in spring training. In 24 appearances in 2005, Padilla went 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA for the Mets.
Mike Pelfrey: The 6-foot-7 righty is probably the frontrunner for a rotation spot should the Mets decide to fill from within. He was 2-1 with a 5.48 ERA in four starts with New York and is continuing to refine his secondary pitches to complement a big league fastball.
Alay Soler: The Cuban righty made his last appearance for the Mets on July 2 against the Yankees before going down with a calf injury, but still holds talent worth considering. He has been pitching in winter ball for Ponce of the Puerto Rican Winter League but needs to return with better conditioning if he hopes to get back in the mix.
Jason Standridge: A waiver claim from the Cincinnati Reds, Standridge was 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA in 21 appearances last season. His stock in the system may have risen with Bradford's departure to Baltimore, albeit only slightly.
Jason Vargas: Acquired from the Florida Marlins in November, the left-handed Vargas will need to erase his 2006 showing (1-2, 7.33 ERA in 12 games, five starts) and should be a pet project to come closer to his 2005 numbers (5-5, 4.03 ERA in 17 games, 13 starts).