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Searching for relief pitchers for the Mets on the trade market

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The Mets’ bullpen has been pretty good, but it could still use some help.

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers
Ian Kennedy
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Coming off last night’s game against the Braves, one in which they rolled Jerad Eickhoff out there in the midst of a big series, the Mets clearly need more starting pitching so they don’t end up in a similar spot again. That was apparent three weeks ago, too, when we ran down the list of some potential fits, and while Rich Hill wasn’t on the list because the focus was finding pitchers on bad teams, the Mets were able to get him from the Rays since then to help shore up their rotation.

But the Mets could use some help in the bullpen, too. Overall, Mets relievers have pitched fairly well, with a 4.01 ERA that ranks 13th in baseball and a 4.10 FIP that ranks 12th. Moving forward, things are far from perfect, though.

Edwin Díaz, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Aaron Loup are the team’s four most reliable relievers right now, with Loup having been incredible whether the Mets use him as an opener or in high leverage situations. Díaz has seen his ERA rise over the past month but has at least looked sharp in his most recent outings, and May and Familia are solid options.

Seth Lugo looked pretty great in returning from the injured list in June, but it’s been a different story lately, as he has almost as many walks as he has strikeouts in July with a 6.52 ERA so far this month. Miguel Castro looked to be having a breakout year earlier in the season but hasn’t pitched as well in June and July as he did in April and May. And the rest of the Mets’ bullpen currently consists of Drew Smith, who has a 2.70 ERA despite carrying a much higher 4.86 FIP, and Yennsy Diaz and Anthony Banda.

If the Mets get more starting pitchers and wind up in a situation where literally all of their pitchers are healthy, they could move one or more to the bullpen to help give it a boost. Smith and Yennsy Diaz have options and could be sent to Syracuse. Castro and Banda are out of options and would have to be designated for assignment. And Lugo has options, though he’d have to pitch very poorly while also still being healthy to imagine the Mets even considering sending him to Triple-A to work things out.

With that, here are some pitchers on bad teams who might be a fit for the Mets.

Diamondbacks: Caleb Smith was looking much better a few weeks ago, but he’s been getting rocked lately as a starting pitcher. Arizona used him out of the bullpen earlier in the year, and he excelled in that role with a 2.70 ERA in 30.0 innings. His worst work as a starter, though, has been his most recent.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Arizona Diamondbacks
Joakim Soria
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joakim Soria was pitching fairly well earlier in the season but currently has a 4.45 ERA. The Diamondbacks have a couple of other relievers who are pitching fairly well this year in Noé Ramirez and Taylor Clarke, but both are cheap and under team control for a while longer.

Orioles: Despite being a very bad team, the Orioles have a few relievers who are pitching well: Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser, and Tyler Wells. But they’re all cheap and under team control, so there isn’t a large or expiring contract among them.

Rangers: At the age of 36, Ian Kennedy is putting up one of his better seasons after signing a one-year deal with the Rangers over the offseason. With good strikeout and walk rates and a slight bit of a home run problem, Kennedy has a 2.51 ERA and 3.65 FIP in 32.1 innings of work. Considering he’s only earning $2.5 million, there’s no big salary to dump here for Texas, but given how bad the team is, you’d have to assume they’ll try to get something for him.

Like the teams above, the Rangers have gotten good pitching out of several relievers with a lot of cheap years of team control remaining: Kolby Allard, Brett Martin, Spencer Patton, and Taylor Hearn. None seem as likely to be dealt as Kennedy.

Pirates: Richard Rodriguez is the Pirates’ closer and has a 2.82 ERA and 2.58 FIP. The 31-year-old is under team control through the 2023 season, though, and would probably not be cheap.

MLB: JUN 26 Pirates at Cardinals

Chris Stratton, who came up as a starter with the Giants, spent a brief stint with the Angels, and was converted to being a full-time reliever when he landed in Pittsburgh, could be an option. Like Rodriguez, though, he’s under team control through the 2023 season. In 52.1 innings this year, he has a 2.58 ERA and 3.57 FIP. As a reliever for the Pirates, he put up a 3.66 ERA in 2019 and a 3.90 ERA in 2020.

The Pirates also have old friend Chasen Shreve of 2020 Mets fame. The lefty has only thrown 27.0 innings for the Pirates since joining the major league team in mid-May, but he has a 2.00 ERA in them despite having a 4.82 FIP. And David Bednar has been quite good for Pittsburgh but has a ton of cheap team control remaining.

Twins: The Twins’ most intriguing relief pitcher is Taylor Rogers, who has a 3.35 ERA and 2.11 FIP on the season but his most recent outing when suffering what the team has called a left middle finger sprain. Considering he’s a left-handed pitcher, that’s a problem that would require a team like the Mets to take on all of the injury risk.

Tyler Duffey is similar to Rogers in that they are both making more than the league minimum and only under the Twins’ control through the end of the 2022 season. Duffey has a 3.20 ERA, which is solid enough, but he’s seen his strikeout rate drop and his walk rate increase significantly.

And last but certainly not least, Hansel Robles has been racking up holds for the Twins despite having a 4.91 ERA and 4.81 FIP. He’s on a one-year, $2 million deal.

Royals: Unfortunately, all of the Royals’ relievers who are pitching well this year—Scott Barlow, Kris Bubic, Josh Staumont, and Jake Brentz—are of the “cheap/years of control” variety.

Rockies: Daniel Bard continues to put together a solid season despite pitching his home games at Coors Field. The 36-year-old, who struggled with the yips to the point that he did not pitch in a major league game for several years, has found a second life in the big leagues with Colorado last year and this year. He has a 3.98 ERA and 3.67 FIP with a good strikeout rate.

MLB: JUL 21 Mariners at Rockies
Mychal Givens
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Rockies don’t want to part with Bard, former Orioles reliever Mychal Givens could be a good fit. He has a 2.73 ERA in 29.2 innings this year and is set to hit free agency at the end of the season. He does have a 4.67 FIP, though, thanks to a somewhat high walk rate and a high home run rate.

Tigers: José Cisnero and former Mets prospect Michael Fulmer are under team control through 2023 and 2022, respectively. Cisnero has been the better of the two in terms of ERA, and Fulmer was just activated from a stint on the injured list. The Tigers have a couple of other good relievers this year in Kyle Funkhouser and Gregory Soto, but both are under team control for the long term.

There are, of course, other possibilities out there, as the Mets demonstrated in obtaining Rich Hill. It would have been nice to see the Mets get Andrew Chafin, who the Cubs traded to the A’s. Maybe there are deals to be made for relievers from the Nationals or Marlins. Maybe a weird team like the Rays will be looking to shed some salary despite being a contender.

But the Mets should do something to help their pitching staff. Bumping the guys at the bottom of the bullpen depth chart back to Syracuse, where they can serve as depth until possibly rejoining the team when rosters expand to 28 players in September, would be good for the team. And it would give a bullpen that has been asked to carry a heavy load this year some much-needed relief.