The Mets have many needs this offseason, but the bullpen is certainly one of them. As we’ve touched upon in the first, second, third, and fourth parts of this series, there are a good number of free agent relievers on the market. The list gets less exciting as we run down the options by their 2023 ERA, but it’s possible—if not highly likely—that a bunch of these options could still be upgrades for the Mets.
Carl Edwards Jr.: Having put himself on the map with a decent rookie season in 2016 and a pair of very good seasons in 2017 and 2018 with the Cubs, Edwards struggled mightily and didn’t pitch all that much between 2019 and 2021. During the latter stretch, he bounced around from the Cubs to the Padres to the Mariners to the Braves to the Blue Jays, and he threw just 27.1 innings in total with a 7.90 ERA. Before the 2022 season, the righty signed with the Nationals, and he had a solid season there, posting a 2.76 ERA despite having a low strikeout rate—especially for a reliever. In his second season in Washington this year, threw only 31.2 innings, had a 3.69 ERA and a 3.86 FIP, and saw his strikeout rate dip to just 16.9 percent, the lowest single-season rate of his career. And he was shut down in late August with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. Heading into his age-32 season, he presumably wouldn’t cost all that much to sign.
Chris Stratton: Durability has not been a concern for Stratton, who threw 82.2 innings this year and has averaged 75.1 innings over the past four full-length seasons. Even in the shortened 2020 season, he managed to rack up 30.0 innings. The 33-year-old righty isn’t dominant, as evidenced by his 3.92 ERA and 3.53 FIP this year and his 3.91 ERA since the beginning of the 2020 season. There aren’t a ton of strikeouts here, but walks aren’t too much of an issue, and Stratton has been particularly good at limiting home runs, especially over the past two seasons. If the Mets were to sign him, it wouldn’t be major news, but there could be some value in bringing in a decent, durable arm in a bullpen that currently has a lot of question marks.
Drew VerHagen: Another 33-year-old righty, VerHagen had a 3.98 ERA and a 4.93 FIP in 61.0 innings with the Cardinals this year. That was his second season in St. Louis, where he struggled mightily in limited work in 2022. Before that, VerHagen had spent the 2014 through 2019 season with the Tigers, with whom he had a 5.11 ERA in 199.0 innings. And he spent two seasons playing in Japan before returning to the states and signing with St. Louis. Like Edwards and Stratton, he is not a high-strikeout pitcher.
Ryne Stanek: A familiar face from the season-and-a-half he spent with the Marlins, Stanek is a 32-year-old righty. He began his major league career with the Rays in 2017, was traded to the Marlins during the 2019 season, and was non-tendered by the Marlins following the 2020 season. From there, he signed with the Astros, and he had a pretty good 2021 season with them, putting up a 3.42 ERA and a 4.11 FIP in 68.1 innings out of their bullpen. He was even better in 2022, as he finished that year with a 1.15 ERA and a 3.02 FIP. In both of those seasons, his walk rate was high, but he managed to work around that issue. And this year, despite cutting down on walks, he had a 4.09 ERA and a 4.60 FIP in 50.2 innings of work. Stanek throws pretty hard, with a fastball that’s averaged over 98 miles per hour in each of the past two seasons, and hasn’t been losing any velocity. Relievers are volatile on a year-to-year basis, and even the worst case scenario here is probably still a serviceable middle-inning reliever.