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Trevor Williams is likely suited for long relief in 2022

He can step into the rotation if need be, as well.

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at New York Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

By the time last year’s trade deadline rolled around, the Mets starting pitching was, in a word, dire. Jacob deGrom was done for the season—though we didn’t know it yet—Carlos Carrasco had yet to return from a hamstring tear that he suffered in spring training, and basically every depth starter the Mets had, from David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi all the way down to Corey Oswalt and Robert Stock, had also gotten hurt. By the final week of July, the Mets had already given three starts to Jerad Eickhoff, which was about two more than anyone needed to determine that he was not a major league quality starter.

Seeing this dire need for starters, the Mets traded for Rich Hill the week before the deadline. They still had an open start in the rotation a few days later, which they wound up giving to Eickhoff for a fourth time. It didn’t go well. Later in the week, the Mets acquired Trevor Williams from the Cubs on the July 30 trade deadline, right after they didn’t really need him anymore. Williams came over as the secondary piece of the Javier Báez trade to serve as a depth starter, and he was sent down to Syracuse to stay stretched out while the Mets waited for an opening to slot him into. Williams was recalled in early August and actually pitched quite well in his brief time with the Mets, tossing 32.1 innings across three starts and seven relief appearances to the tune of a 3.06 ERA.

Williams enters 2022 in his final year of team control and without any option years remaining, so he pretty much has to make the team out of spring training or be put on waivers. With a 28-man roster to start the year, it’s especially hard to see Williams getting the shaft. Given that the Mets’ rotation is currently full, and with Tylor Megill and David Peterson also likely above Williams on the starting depth chart, Williams figures to start the season in the bullpen serving in long relief duty.

Ever since his promising 2018 where he put up a sparkling 3.11 ERA in 31 starts for the Pirates, Williams has become much more of a 5th-starter type than a top of the rotation arm, with a 5.21 ERA in 52 starts and 292.0 innings across the three seasons since. The best thing you can say about Williams is that he has been consistently healthy, making at least 25 starts in every full season he pitched until last year, when he was relegated to the minors and the bullpen.

A sinkerballer who tops out around 92 MPH without any great secondary pitch, Williams is not exactly bursting with upside. The 29-year-old has has never posted strong strikeout numbers and has never kept the ball on the ground at a well above-average rate for a sinkerballer, so his 2018 appears to be much more the outlier than an indicator of some latent top of the rotation upside.

Regardless, Williams is not someone you have to watch with bated breath or through gritted teeth; he is a major league quality starter who would not be out of place picking up some spot starts or stepping in for a short while in case of an injury. A depth pitcher who can stay healthy and pitch to an ERA around 5 is actually a very important thing to have, and we learned that last year. He is likely overqualified as a long man to just eat innings and mop up messes, but this is what having good depth on a good team looks like. As far as 8th starters go, Williams is about as solid as you’re going to get.