Fans used to cheer at Citi Field following Jeurys Familia’s appearances.
Now, they often boo.
Familia’s return to Flushing has been disastrous with the 2016 MLB saves leader producing one of the worst seasons by any reliever. Familia owns a 7.50 ERA spanning 32 outings, has blown four saves, and has landed on the injured list twice, all while being demoted from the eighth inning to mop-up duty.
“Any athlete can have a bad season,” Familia said last month through a translator recently. “That’s just how it’s happened for me.”
Acquiring Familia marked Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s first major-league signing, and like most of his transactions, the move has not panned out.
The Mets knew they needed to bolster their bullpen, and they acted fast to land Familia, signing him on Dec. 14, before any of the other relievers found homes.
However, signing Familia was not a move universally supported within the organization, according to a source.
Familia had regressed since his dominant 2016 campaign, and it seemed his time with the Mets had run its course when Oakland acquired him last July.
The 29-year-old had enough support that the team decided to bring him back to New York believing he could be a strong complement to new closer Edwin Diaz. Familia no longer had to be the guy. He could be a potential eighth-inning standout.
Through the first 90 games of the deal, it certainly seems the Mets made a mistake in signing up for a second go with Familia.
Familia’s ineffectiveness and absence has affected the entire team, and he’s the active player – Yoenis Cespedes is sidelined – most at fault for the 40-50 record.
The righty cannot be trusted with a lead, and owns the highest ERA, FIP and WHIP since he emerged as a reliable reliever in 2014.
He also has the worst ratios in hits per nine innings, walks per nine innings and homers per nine innings in that same stretch.
Some believe that Familia’s issue is his confidence with the veteran knowing the fans are ready to boo him at every turn. A defeated attitude can he hard to overcome, and Familia hasn’t had much success to build on.
Familia’s arsenal is still good enough to get hitters out although he’s walking far too many batters.
The Mets’ new pitching coaches did recently note to Familia how he was not getting the same extension on his pitches that he did last season. That tip helped Familia produce a perfect inning in a recent mop-up appearance against the Yankees, but the Phillies shelled him in his next outing in a close game.
“The stuff is there,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said last month.
It’s bad enough that Familia is providing the Mets little value, but his struggles have forced the Mets to utilize their bullpen differently than they had planned, which as contributed to the unit’s 5.63 ERA, the third-worst mark in the majors.
Seth Lugo, penciled in for a fireman role, has instead been used as the setup man, and has been asked for multiple innings 14 times.
Asking Lugo for more than three outs limits his availability during a series, which reduces the Mets’ chances of winning games when he’s not available.
The Mets have tried others in higher-leverage spots to see if they can find lightning in a bottle, but none have risen to the occasion. Those lesser relievers wouldn’t be used in high-leverage spots if Familia could produce as expected.
The only saving grace for the Mets is that Familia is not the only big-money reliever signed this offseason who has struggled.
Familia still has two-plus years to redeem himself, but a scary possibility for the Mets is he could be a low-leverage reliever costing $11.7 million next year.
The first signing Van Wagenen ever made as a general manager could force him to sign another reliever to a large deal this offseason.