While most of the talk that’s surrounded the Mets over the past few days and weeks has been centered upon what the team will do with its position players, there hasn’t been much buzz about pitching. It sure sounds like the team will not entertain the notion of bringing in a starting pitcher, which is a shame considering how things went for the rotation last year and how incredibly well things would have to go for that unit to regain its status from two or three years ago.
Even with that seeming willingness to roll the dice with the rotation, the Mets sure could still use some bullpen help. And even though the free agent market for relievers isn’t nearly as populated as it was back in November, there are still plenty of players out there.
To be fair, the Mets added one reliever fairly early in the offseason when they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million contract. While he hasn’t been consistently dominant in his major league career, he certainly was last year, as he put up a 2.33 ERA and 2.74 FIP in 77.1 innings of work. He’s part of the core of this Mets’ bullpen, as currently constructed, alongside Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins.
Familia is coming off the worst season of his major league career, one that saw him pitch just 24.2 innings thanks to a combination of his suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy and a blood clot that required surgery, putting up an unusally high 4.38 ERA when he was on the mound. Ramos has been a good-to-great reliever every year of his major league career, but he is coming off his worst full single season performance to date. His 3.99 ERA and 4.40 FIP on the season were quite a bit higher than his career marks of 2.88 and 3.31. There’s really no knock on Blevins, at least, as he did more or less exactly what you’d have expected him to do with a 2.94 FIP and 3.12 ERA last year. His strikeout rates the past two seasons with the Mets have been the best marks of his career, too.
Assuming health and typical levels of performance, that gives the Mets a solid enough foundation of a bullpen. If the team were to acquire a starting pitcher or two, some of its rotation options could make the move to the bullpen, perhaps filling it out to the point that no other moves would have to be made. And if everything breaks incredibly right, maybe that’s the plan: a rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler with pitchers like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman working out of the ‘pen.
But in a world where Addison Reed—one of the best relievers in baseball over the past couple of years—signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Twins, it wouldn’t seem wise to pass on bringing in some more help for the bullpen. At the time of this writing, there are 49 free agents, per the tracker at MLB Trade Rumors, whose names are in Fangraphs’ database. Many of the best relievers who hit the market have already been signed, but there are still plenty who had good seasons last year. Some of those who didn’t fare quite as well are only a year removed from dominance.
Maybe it turns out that the Mets don’t need any of those guys. Maybe some combination of starters who don’t fit into the rotation and relief pitchers already in the organization—Josh Smoker, Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles, Chasen Bradford, or any one of the relievers acquired in the Mets’ trades last summer—could fill out the other three spots in the bullpen successfully. But given the way things have generally gone health-wise for the team and its players over the past few years, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to bring in one or two more good relief pitchers—especially since it seems like the price will be right for the Mets on nearly all of them.