The Mets are going into 2022 with roughly the same bullpen as they had during the 2021 season. Replace Jeurys Familia with Adam Ottavino and you mostly get the picture. Edwin Díaz will once again be the club’s closer. Trevor May will play a key late-inning role. Miguel Castro again remains the wild card among the group. As it stands now, the lefty will be someone who grabs the spot in spring training, most likely Chasen Shreve.
That means that, for another year, Seth Lugo will be a valuable cog in close games for the team. You could even argue he enters the season as the de facto set up man, with an outside shot at finishing games should Díaz falter at any point in the season—Lugo was called upon to close out games in 2019 when Sugar struggled in his first season with the Mets, This also means that yet another another Mets manager—this time, Buck Showalter—will need to navigate Lugo’s usage in order to keep him healthy and effective for a full season.
Lugo is coming off two subpar seasons in a row, though his 2021 output was significantly better than his 2020. In the former, he pitched to a 5.15 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, and a 1.36 WHIP, his worst numbers since his 2017 campaign, when he was diagnosed with a partially-torn UCL that has become a critical part of his story. During that strange 2020 season, Lugo finally got his way and was able to re-insert himself into the rotation, making seven starts in the latter stages of the season. Given the team’s fortified rotation this year, along with their Triple-A depth of David Peterson and Tylor Megill, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Lugo breaks into the rotation, barring catastrophe. This means he’ll remain in the bullpen, where he’s most valuable.
Last year, he again worked strictly as a reliever, making 46 appearances and pitching to a 3.50 ERA, a 3.77 FIP, and a 1.30 WHIP in 46.1 innings. He struck out 55 during the season and was pretty solid minus some rough stretches. The problem was that Luis Rojas was forced to navigate his appearances with care, using him sparingly and, very rarely, on back-to-back days. This became a problem for the club when, down the stretch, they were forced to rest him on days when they could have used him to secure a tight lead. That led to a lot of tough losses with Lugo looking on from the sidelines while the team’s beleaguered bullpen coughed up a lead and a game.
It’s likely Lugo will never reach the highs of 2018 and 2019, when he pitched to ERAs to 2.66 and 2.70 while striking out 103 and 104 batters. In those two years, you could make a legitimate case he was one of the best relievers in the league and one of the most valuable players on the team. However, in recent years, the club has been a lot more careful about his innings and when they would call upon the 32-year-old given that partially-torn UCL, as previously mentioned.
Will that be the same this year? With Lugo set to become a free agent after the upcoming season, the club might be a little less reserved in using him, as teams often do with pitchers who are set to become free agents. However, if the club envisions any reality where they want to make a deep playoff run, they will need Lugo healthy to get them there. In that sense, he remains one of the most important contributors on this club.