Following the insanity of the Carlos Correa saga in which he ended up back with the Minnesota Twins, it appears as if the Mets no longer have impact moves left on the table for this offseason. While many wanted the Mets to add an impact bat, their biggest moves were on the mound, adding Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, and David Robertson. Robertson was a great addition to the bullpen, where the Mets can now have him help build the bridge with Adam Ottavino to Edwin Diaz in the latter half of games. Even with those three proven bullpen arms, it appears the Mets want to make one more addition to their bullpen, as their name has been tossed around with free agent relievers Andrew Chafin and Zack Britton.
For those who are pulling for the Mets to sign Britton over Chafin, they lean on two narratives. One, since Mets manager Buck Showalter managed Britton in Baltimore, there is familiarity in what he brings to the mound and the clubhouse. Another is that Britton not only pitched well under the bright lights of New York, but that he pitched at a high level only three seasons ago for the Yankees. While both the fact that he and Showalter have an established connection and that he was at one point a high-level pitcher with the Yankees are true, the fact is that he is an unknown entering the season. He started developing injuries in 2021, which ultimately led to him having Tommy John Surgery. When he returned in 2022, things were rough. He struggled, with shoulder fatigue to blame.
While Britton is an unknown entering the season, the known commodity entering the season is Chafin. Chafin has someone who has been linked to the Mets for several seasons now, and was a target as recently as the 2022 trade deadline. Chafin has been consistently excellent across his past few seasons, registering a 2.63 ERA over the past three. Three years younger than Britton with less of a recent injury history, choosing Chaffin between the two makes sense purely from an eye test perspective. Beyond that, Chafin is someone who fits nicely into this bullpen, and could be a missing piece to making this the best bullpen (on paper) in Major League Baseball.
Looking back at the 2022 season the bullpen is mostly remembered for the trumpet-drawing entrances of Diaz, who entranced batters on his way to the best season of his career. There were other great performances, notably Ottavino, who proved to be a solid setup man for Diaz in late game situations. The commonality between Diaz and Ottavino is that they both predominantly used their sliders, with Diaz using his 58% of the time, and Ottavino using it 42.9% of the time. After adding Brooks Raley (who finished eighth in holds last season) who is also a predominant slider pitcher, using it at a 38%, the Mets find themselves in a situation where their bullpen is very slider heavy.
Adding Chafin to this collection of slider throwers will provide an impactful, unpredictable balance to the bullpen. While Chafin does use his slider, he mixes his sinker in more than the others do, with his sinker checking in as his most used pitch at 39%. Whenever you are able to keep the other team guessing, it is an advantage.
Heading into the season the Mets have improved their bullpen, a bullpen that was the third best in the National League last season. The additions of Robertson and Raley will help to bolster what was strong last season, but the bullpen can truly be put over the top with the addition of Chafin. He is that arm in the bullpen that is not quite an All-Star, but brings a positive impact with his presence in the bullpen. If you were to add him to a bullpen that already features Diaz, Ottavino, Robertson, and Raley, plus throw in Drew Smith and Tylor Megill to the mix, you are looking at a bullpen that has quality through the entire length.
With signing Britton, the team would be betting on him to return to form and stay healthy following several years of being injured, and might force them to have to acquire another reliever at the deadline. Acquiring Chafin will not only make it less likely (barring injuries) that the team will need to trade for impact arms at the deadline, but it will provide the Mets with comfort knowing exactly what to expect from him heading into the season. It would be an “Old Mets” move to sign Britton, while it would be very much a “New Mets” move to bring in Chafin. Who knows? This is Steve Cohen we’re talking about. He might just take a leap and sign both.
Chafin has a 2.63 ERA over the past three seasons
Diaz uses his slider 58% of the time
Chafin throws his sinker 39%