8:13pm: The Mets do indeed like Bastardo, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post, but the team isn’t willing to give him the three-year deal that he has been seeking on the open market this winter. The Mets are prepared to wait out the market for the remaining relievers, according to Puma.
8:01am: The Orioles and Mets are among the clubs holding discussions with free agent southpaw Antonio Bastardo, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Bastardo, 30, spent last year with the Pirates.
Bastardo joins Tyler Clippard as the only two unsigned relievers left on MLBTR’s pre-winter list of the top fifty free agents. In that post, Tim Dierkes predicted that he could command a three-year contract with a $15MM guarantee, though he could be aiming for more after fellow lefty Tony Sipp landed an $18MM promise earlier in the offseason.
While his bottom-line run prevention numbers have wavered from year to year, Bastardo has been rather consistent in terms of peripherals. For his career, the veteran has posted 11.0 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9, while generating a meager 28.7% groundball rate. He has, however, kept the long ball in check, allowing only a 7.0% HR/FB rate and 0.80 HR/9 dating back to his rookie season of 2009.
Those numbers support his overall 3.45 ERA. Bastardo has carried a 3.20 SIERA to go with a 3.33 FIP, both of which suggest that he may have been a bit unlucky. On the other hand, xFIP only values his overall contributions at a 3.87 ERA equivalency.
That last metric has not been enamored of Bastardo’s work, in particular, over the past three years. He has been particularly fortunate in terms of limiting home runs in that span, with a HR/FB rate hovering below 5%. And last year, there was some cause to question the sub-3.00, as Bastardo benefited from a .246 BABIP despite allowing a career-high 32.2% hard contact rate.
But the southpaw also generated a 14.6% swinging-strike rate in his sole season in Pittsburgh, good for the second-best mark of his career. And his velocity actually trended up to 92.7 mph on the season.
Importantly, too, Bastardo recovered from a tough start with a nice run to end the year. And while he was even better against opposing lefties, he also limited right-handed hitters to a .207/.311/.315 batting line. That lines up with his career numbers, and will surely give teams comfort that he’ll be a flexible setup piece.
It isn’t surprising to hear that Baltimore and New York are among the suitors for Bastardo, but neither of these particular organizations seem to be in particular need of a lefty pen arm. The O’s top southpaw (outside of closer Zach Britton) is Brian Matusz, who has turned in solid results over the past three years. And the Mets already re-signed Jerry Blevins to go with Sean Gilmartin.
But particularly if one views Bastardo as a late-inning option who is nearly as useful against righties as lefties, it’s easy to see him drawing wide interest. (The same holds true, it’s worth noting, of Clippard.) Even at this late stage of the winter, there figure to be more clubs that will be involved as his market develops.