Yesterday, the Mets officially announced their signing of right-handed relief pitcher Trevor May to a two-year contract worth $15.5 million, a move that undoubtedly improves their bullpen. As the new era of the Mets got underway at the beginning of the offseason, the team’s bullpen wasn’t lacking in quantity. The issue with the existing roster was the varying quality of those arms.
Among the relievers who were on the roster already, Edwin Díaz and Seth Lugo are most likely the best two relievers. May is of similar quality, closer to Lugo’s overall numbers than Díaz’s, at least in the event that the latter pitches like he did in every major league season of his career other than 2019. All three of those pitchers are right-handed, but that isn’t the end of the world. They all have pretty good splits against left-handed hitters, and Major League Baseball is still using the three-batter-minimum rule.
With rosters set to go back to 26 players—the size originally set for the 2020 season before the pandemic hit—the Mets figure to carry eight relief pitchers. Díaz, Lugo, and May give them three very good arms to occupy 37.5% of those roster spots, leaving five spots open to other pitchers. That situation changes pretty dramatically if the team decides to use Lugo in the starting rotation, but let’s assume for now that the Mets are not considering doing that.
But the Mets should absolutely still be looking to upgrade their bullpen. At the moment, the other five spots would be filled by some combination of Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, Brad Brach, Jacob Barnes, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora, and potentially Steven Matz. Of that group, only Zamora and Matz are lefties, and fellow lefty Chasen Shreve was non-tendered by the Mets last night. We also still don’t know for sure how the Mets intend to use Matz heading into spring training.
It’s worth mentioning that the Mets brought in Arodys Vizcaino on a minor league deal before Cohen’s purchase was complete, too, though he’ll need to show he’s healthy after pitching just a few innings in 2019 and undergoing shoulder surgery early in that season.
If the Mets do literally nothing else, it is possible to see them having a solid bullpen, but for the unit to excel as a whole, at least two of the pitchers in those five roster spots would have to take significant strides forward. For the bullpen to be great, though, the Mets would be relying on nearly all of those pitchers to outperform their numbers from the past couple of years, and that is highly unlikely with virtually any group of five relievers.
To further increase the odds that the bullpen will be good, the Mets should be scouring the free agent market, especially now that some good relievers were non-tendered last night by their now-former teams. And if they do bring in more good pitchers for the bullpen, Zamora, Smith, and Gsellman figure to be the first ones out of the major league roster mix since they all have options remaining. After that, presumably Barnes and Brach would be most likely candidates to be designated for assignment, with Castro, Betances, and Familia seemingly the least likely pitchers to be let go before the 2021 season begins.