The Mets are 62-37, as far over .500 as they’ve been since the outstanding 2006 season, and in first place by three games in the National League East. They’ve already made two moves to improve their roster, bringing Tyler Naquin into the fold in a trade with the Reds alongside left-handed pitcher Phillip Diehl and Daniel Vogelbach in a trade with the Pirates. But there is still room for improvement—especially in the bullpen.
Collectively, Mets relievers have a 3.50 ERA that ranks eighth in all of baseball this year, which might make it seem like the need to upgrade in the pen isn’t dire. Edwin Díaz has been phenomenal with a 1.51 ERA and an absurd 52.5 percent strikeout rate, and several of his supporting cast have put up good numbers. The makeup of the bullpen right now behind Díaz is: Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor Williams, Tommy Hunter, Joely Rodríguez, Yoan López, Stephen Nogosek, and Sam Clay. Of that group, Ottavino has been the best over the longest span of time, but Rodríguez has a 5.93 ERA and Clay was just called up and has struggled in the brief stints he’s had in the big leagues in the past. And of course, Colin Holderman had given the Mets good innings out of the bullpen before he was sent to Pittsburgh in the Vogelbach trade.
There are internal reinforcements potentially on the way, as Trevor May is set to return soon following a very long absence because of a humeral stress reaction. Tylor Megill could slot into the bullpen upon his return, though he hasn’t reached the point of a rehab assignment yet. David Peterson was just optioned to Syracuse and gave up two runs very quickly in a high-leverage relief appearance against the Yankees on Wednesday night, but perhaps he could be worked into a relief role more successfully.
Still, it’s fairly obvious that the Mets could use some new options for the biggest spots. So let’s take a quick look at relievers who could be good fits on three of the teams that are not contending, with more bad teams to come in subsequent parts of this brief series.
A’s: Having already stripped down their roster significantly over the winter, the A’s have a lot of players who are not even close to being eligible for free agency, which probably makes their best relievers by ERA this year—Sam Moll, A.J. Puk, Zach Jackson, and Domingo Acevedo—unavailable. After that, the stats from the rest of their relievers don’t make them look particularly appealing. Justin Grimm, for example, is set to hit free agency after this season, but he has a 4.11 ERA and 4.29 FIP this year.
Royals: Scott Barlow is the most appealing reliever on the Royals, as he has a 2.45 ERA in 47.2 innings. But he isn’t going to hit free agency until after the 2024 season. Like the A’s, the Royals have a few other relievers with good numbers—Jose Cuas, Gabe Speier, and Dylan Coleman—who are under team control for many years to come.
Tigers: Despite their terrible record, the Tigers have quite a collection of good relievers this year. And like the other teams here, several of their pitchers are nowhere near free agency. But 33-year-old Wily Peralta is a free agent at the end of this season and is carrying a 2.16 ERA in 33.1 innings of work, albeit with a 3.72 FIP that is largely the result of a high 14.0 percent walk rate. He’s currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A as he works his way back from a hamstring injury.
With the Mets’ biggest need in the bullpen still being a left-handed reliever thanks to the struggles of Joely Rodríguez, Andew Chafin and his 2.53 ERA and contract that runs through next season at $6.5 million per year—so long as he doesn’t exercise his opt-out at the end of this season—could be appealing. If COVID vaccination status matters to the Mets in making moves, though, Chafin was placed on the restricted list for the Tigers’ recent trip to Toronto because he is not vaccinated.
Former Mets prospect Michael Fulmer, who was sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, is set to hit free agency this winter, and he’s been very good working exclusively in relief this year. He has a 2.77 ERA and 3.27 FIP in 39.0 innings.
And Joe Jiménez has a 3.00 ERA and 1.92 FIP in 39.0 innings while being set to hit free agency at the end of the 2023 season. His track record coming into this season was shaky, though, with a 6.35 ERA over the course of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.