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The Mets need good middle relief innings from Drew Smith in 2023

The 29-year-old has pitched pretty well in his time in the big leagues.

New York Mets pitcher Drew Smith throwing during a spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Florida Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Believe it or not, relievers the Mets traded for at the 2017 deadline are set to make up twenty-five percent of the team’s Opening Day bullpen this year. Drew Smith and Stephen Nogosek, both right-handed, came to the Mets in the deals that saw Lucas Duda and Addison Reed depart, respectively.

Smith made his major league debut the following year and put up a 3.54 ERA in 28.0 innings of work. A few weeks before the 2019 season began, though, Smith needed Tommy John surgery, which of course kept him off the field entirely that year. He made his return in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but he fared pretty poorly in his seven innings of work.

The 2021 season, however, was a step forward for Smith. Over the course of 41.1 innings, he had a 2.40 ERA, albeit with a 4.69 FIP that could mostly be attributed to a very high home run rate. And if there’s a knock on Smith, even when he’s healthy and pitching well, it’s that he will give up some home runs. For his career, he’s allowed 1.47 per nine, and over the past two seasons, it’s been 1.65 per nine, again despite putting up an overall very good 2.89 ERA.

Projection systems don’t particularly love Smith, as most have him in the 3.50-3.90 ERA range for the 2023 season. Thanks to the fact that the Mets paid more attention to their bullpen than usual over the course of this offseason, the team doesn’t need Smith to step up into a prominent role. But he is arguably their fourth-best reliever right now. That could change, depending on how things go for some of his peers, but the Mets do need Smith to stay on the field as much as possible and ideally give them some quality middle relief innings in the process.