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Finding bullpen help for the Mets, Part 1

With the offseason getting underway, let’s start running down the list of free agent relievers who could help the Mets.

Miami Marlins v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Mets have a bunch of needs that they’ll need to address this offseason, and we figured we’d get started by looking at the bullpen. There are glaring needs in the starting rotation, but right now, the bullpen is pretty thin beyond the top relievers. If the Mets intend to be competitive next year, as president of baseball operations David Stearns said at his introductory press conference, they need to bring in some relievers.

While the bullpen wasn’t primarily to blame for the Mets’ incredibly disappointing 2023 season, it wasn’t very good. Mets relievers had a 4.45 ERA that ranked 22nd in baseball and sat higher than the 4.17 ERA that was the major league average for relievers. The absence of Edwin Díaz played a significant role, of course, and his return from his knee injury should give the Mets a substantial boost.

Díaz will obviously headline the bullpen, and the Mets picked up Brooks Raley’s option. With Adam Ottavino having declined his player option for next year, that leaves the rest of the current options as: Drew Smith, Trevor Gott, Phil Bickford, Sean Reid-Foley, Sam Coonrod, and José Butto. One of those names would be bumped from the list if Ottavino’s option is officially exercised, but the Mets’ need for help from outside the organization is clear.

With that, let’s start running down the list of free agent relievers based on their performance this year. This time around, we’ll go by 2023 ERA with a minimum of 30 innings pitched during the season.

Josh Hader: A longtime member of the Brewers, Hader was traded to the Padres in 2022, while Stearns was still running baseball operations in Milwaukee. Hader had struggled in the first few months of that season and was downright awful for the Padres after the trade and finished the year with a 5.22 ERA. He bounced back in a big way this year and had a 1.28 ERA in San Diego, the second-best single-season mark of his career. The Padres extended him a qualifying offer, which means he’ll cost any new team something in the draft next year in addition to what is likely to be the most expensive contract any reliever signs this offseason.

Jesse Chavez: The 40-year-old missed a lot of time this season after taking a line drive to the shin, but in the 34.2 innings that he threw in the early and late parts of the season for the Braves, he had a 1.56 ERA, a 3.05 FIP, and a 27.1 percent strikeout rate. Chavez has pitched for a lot of teams since making his major league debut in 2008, has a 4.30 ERA for a career that has seen him spend parts of some seasons as a starting pitcher, and has a 2.81 ERA in 137.2 innings of work since the start of the 2021 season.

Hector Neris: The longtime Phillies reliever spent the past two seasons with the Astros and declined his player option that would have paid him $8.5 million for the 2024 season. Neris had a 1.71 ERA and a 3.83 FIP in 68.1 innings this year and a 2.69 ERA and a 3.10 FIP over the course of his two-year stint in Houston.

Matt Moore: Having made his name as a starter with the Rays in the early 2010s, Moore spent the bulk of his career as a starting pitcher through 2017, started splitting his time between starting and reliving in 2018, missed a lot of time with a knee injury that he suffered in 2019, and again split his time between the rotation and the bullpen with the Phillies in 2021. But last year, he pitched exclusively in relief and thrived, putting up a 1.95 ERA and a 2.98 FIP in 74.0 innings. This year, he had a 2.56 ERA and a 3.73 FIP in 52.2 innings after starting the season with the Angels, finding himself to be one of the players that the Angels gave away for free on waivers in August, and ending up with the Marlins after the Guardians fell out of the postseason race.