If there’s one thing that all Mets fans can agree on, it’s that we don’t want to see another bullpen filled with relievers selected because of their option status. Regardless of how it failed spectacularly last year, at least it was a plan. How important is a plan when it comes to building a bullpen? Most of us would prefer to have different options, including handedness, velocity and movement, among others. But push comes to shove, the plan needs to be pitchers who have had success recently.

Let’s start with the holdovers from the 2024 team. Edwin Diaz is expected to return to be the team’s closer. And after that, there’s a ton of uncertainty. Adam Ottavino has an option that he’s expected to exercise but it’s a possibility he’ll look elsewhere. On the other side of the coin, the Mets have an option on Brooks Raley that they’re expected to pick up but they could potentially decline if they were looking to save money for other parts of the roster. Let’s say both of these veterans are in the 2024 pen for the club, which makes three relievers for next year’s bullpen.

The Mets have four depth starters. It’s pretty clear that all four will not be in the rotation. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess where those guys will pitch, either as starters or relievers, as well as the majors or the minors. Let’s hold a spot for one of those in the pen, giving the 2024 Mets four relievers.

Not counting the depth starters, the Mets have six relievers from last year’s club that are eligible for arbitration. The brass seems to love Drew Smith, while my take is that he’s a strong non-tender candidate. It seems to me that Trevor Gott has more upside and he ended the year on a solid note, with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.274 WHIP, while limiting batters to a .630 OPS with a .309 BABIP in his last 27 games. Let’s put Gott and Smith in the 2024 pen, too, giving us six relievers.

Is there anyone else we should consider? Phil Bickford was great in September. Reed Garrett is pre-arb with an option remaining, as is Grant Hartwig, Bryce Montes de Oca and Josh Walker. Sean Reid-Foley and Denyi Reyes are out of options, as is Bickford. The guys with options begin the year with Syracuse. Are any of the other three worth guaranteeing a spot on the Opening Day roster? My guess is no. Which leads the club needing to add two relievers in the offseason.

They could trade for one, like they did prior to last season with Raley. But that’s a difficult thing to predict. Let’s look at the free agent relief pitchers, limiting them to ones without an option and those who don’t expect to be a closer, since the Mets already have Diaz. Here are ones who were good last year, along with having a track record of succeeding in the majors. The listed age will be their official one for the 2024 season.

Reynaldo Lopez, 30, RHP
Last year – 66 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.273 WHIP
Last three – 189 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.064 WHIP
Outside of Diaz and Smith, there’s not a lot of velocity with our six projected relievers – while we didn’t name a depth starter for the pen, none of the four are fireballers. Lopez had an average fastball velocity of 98.4 last year, the highest of his career.

Matt Moore, 35, LHP
Last year – 52.2 IP, 2.56 ERA, 1.158 WHIP
2022-2023 – 126.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.168 WHIP
A starter thru most of his career, Moore became a full-time reliever in 2022 and has put up back-to-back strong seasons. He utilizes a three-pitch repertoire as a reliever, with a mid-90s fastball, a change and a curve. Both of those pitches are about 10 mph slower than his heater, with his change being a very good pitch. With Raley as the only lefty, Moore would give them another southpaw in the pen.

Joe Jimenez, 29, RHP
Last year – 56.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.154 WHIP
2022-2023 – 113 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.124 WHIP
Once thought to be the Tigers’ closer of the future because of his big arm, Jimenez took awhile to develop in the majors. He put up his best season in ’22 and bettered that last year. He’s mostly fastball-slider, with an occasional change. Ideally, there would be a longer track record than just two seasons for a career reliever. But there’s enough here to make Jimenez interesting.

David Robertson, 39, RHP
Last year – 65.1 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.194 WHIP
When healthy, has been a very good reliever since 2009
There’s a concern about any pitcher this old. There’s also the worry that he would not be receptive to a return to New York, after the Mets traded him. But Robertson enjoyed his time with the Mets and there could very well be a return engagement here. David Stearns might just have to give him a no-trade clause this time.

Jesse Chavez, 40, RHP
Last year – 34.2 IP, 1.56 ERA, 1.096 WHIP
Last three – 137.2, 2.81 ERA, 1.184 WHIP
Chavez missed half of the year in 2023 after getting hit in the shin with a line drive. He came back to pitch in September and allowed 1 ER in 5.2 IP. He was not on the post-season roster for the Braves, so he may be ready to move on. Chavez throws six different pitches, although he’s been leaning on his cutter here recently.

Robert Stephenson, 31, RHP
Last year – 52.1 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.171 WHIP
2021 – 46 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.304 WHIP
Another pitcher without much track record but perhaps an upside play. Stephenson was starting to put things together with the Reds before the Covid season but things fell apart on him in 2020. He bounced back the following season but 2022 saw another rough turn, this time in Colorado. Stephenson has averaged 96.9 with his fastball in both ’22 and ’23. He throws a lot of different pitches and began throwing a cutter last season.

Brent Suter, 34, LHP
Last year – 69.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.298 WHIP
2019-2023 – 259.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.203 WHIP
Stearns should be very familiar with Suter, who had spent his entire career with the Brewers before a midseason deal last year to the Rockies. He’s got a very good change, which allows him to face righties, as well as lefties.

Will Smith, 34, LHP
Last year – 57.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.064 WHIP
2013-2023 – 521.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.159 WHIP
Smith’s ERA last season was not good. But his WHIP was as good as ever and he had a 3.36 FIP. So, what happened? Smith had a comically bad 55.6 strand rate, compared to a 73.4 lifetime mark in the category. Maybe he expects to be a closer next year, which would exclude him from this list. But if he’s willing to be used before the ninth inning, he should be someone the Mets are interested in.

There are plenty of other intriguing options available, including Jordan Hicks. His track record isn’t very good and he might prioritize being a closer, which is why he didn’t get a write-up above. But any team would be interested in his arm.

My hope is that the Mets prioritize guys like the eight listed above, rather than ones who have minor league options or ones who throw hard but have no history of success or those who throw with their left hand but get devoured by RHB. And the pool might be bigger than eight, depending upon what happens to those players with either club or player options.

15 comments on “Bullpen options for the 2024 Mets

  • Metsense

    This was a thoughtful and thorough article. I concur about the six pitchers that you have chosen for the bullpen. I like Wandy Peralta, 32, LHP which you haven’t chosen.
    Last year: 54.0 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
    2021-23 with the Yankees: 154.0 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.83 WHIP
    My pecking order would be; Hicks, Peralta, Jimenez, Moore, Lopez and Smith.
    Bickford, Reid-Foley and Reyes should be non-tendered.

    • Metsense

      Correction. 1.18 WHIP with the Yankees for Peralta.

    • Brian Joura

      Good call on Peralta – not sure how I missed him.

  • Dan Capwell

    Both Bickford and Smith walked way too many batters, and Smith’s propensity for giving up the long ball makes him doubly vulnerable. Ottavino fits into Smith’s mold as well, but the Mets are probably stuck with him, unless he is bold enough to test his luck in FA. In a perfect offseason, all three end up elsewhere.

    I feel that one aspect to consider here is does Heffner return as PC? My sense is that most coaches are interchangeable empty uniforms, however the best ones seem to be able to instill a sense of confidence and direction into their charges. I think Kevin Long was the last Met coach so endowed. If they bring back Heffner and 6 of the same bullpen arms, the chances of a repeat of 2023’s disaster are higher than if they either change the coach or the cast of characters.

    I’d rather see the Mets load up the bullpen with junk ballers like Moore, Chavez, or Suter rather than flamethrowers who can’t get enough spin on the ball.

  • T.J.

    We’ll know about Ottavino soon enough. He scares me regularly and at times is maddening, but he is a mostly reliable veteran. A Robertson return is achievable and I’d like to see it. One of the other decent veterans that they can get on a reasonable one year would be nice. That would be 3 late inning vets on 1 year commitments. Sure, not all will be healthy and/or effective, but the financial risk would be limited. Sewald would be nice, I always liked his guile, he will certainly command a multi-year. If they build that base, the Eppler-style shuttle group may be a little better than last year. de Oca had some upside before he got hurt.

    They do need to hope Diaz is back to 2023 form, and ultimately they’ll need at least a couple of their home grown arms to be decent high leverage pen guys.

  • Mike W

    I would like to see the Mets get at least three relievers. I hope at least one of them is a flame thrower. I have a gut feeling that the Mets will make at least one big trade and that besides the center piece that they will get back one relief pitcher.

  • BoomBoom

    The Braves always seem to have like 9 lefties in the pen while we’re lucky to have 1. I would like to see our bullpen arms more evenly distributed between lefties and righties. If we have a 7 man pen, I’d like at least 3 lefties, with at least 1 of them with reverse splits. Raley can provide that piece. For the other 2, I like Matt Moore and Brent Suter bc of his funky delivery. There was a great graphic about the Rays bullpen and how each member had a completely different release point. I think one of our problems in recent years has been the lack of variety amongst our relievers. Too much similarity makes it too easy on the other team. I also like the Jimenez idea for the velocity.

    and gun to my head, Drew Smith. Maybe as the number 7 in the pen instead of the number 4, he’ll be utilized more preferably.


    • Brian Joura

      Most bullpens now feature 8 relief pitchers.

  • Woodrow

    Smith? Too many HRs.

  • NYM6986

    It’s become quite an industry when you need to decide who going to pitch when your team needs 12 outs or more from the pen. That seemed to be us a lot in 2023. Ottavino, Robertson and Diaz would be my preferred 7-8-9 inning relievers. I just want better players to fill the other 8 relief spots. Sewald looks good now and in reality he’s pitched well since leaving the Mets in 2020. With a 5.5 ERA on the Mets over four years, he didn’t deserve a roster spot. But clearly he either got better coaching or had an epiphany and has been solid moving to Seattle and then to the DBacks this year. We don’t need stars but can’t stand having fringe players on the roster.

    • Brian Joura

      It’s more important with the lineup but there’s a ton of value to have with guys who just aren’t anchors. You can work around it a bit more in the bullpen, using the guys who stink in the lowest-leverage spots available. But it’s one thing when you have 2 low-leverage relievers and another thing when you have six of them, which is what the Mets faced after the Robertson deal. Buck Showalter was great with giving his relievers rest. Hopefully the new manager will continue Showalter’s work in that regard and add more to the leverage end of things.

      • NYM6986

        “They” always say that a manager makes a difference in about a half a dozen games during the course of a season. I have always thought that was a bit understated. I think they will miss Buck who went from manager of the year to being fired, although he doesn’t hit, pitch, throw, or steal bases. Then again neither did a lot of this year’s Met players. Not sure how much of a difference a new manager is going to make. They are singing the praises of Bruce Bochy over in Texas but let’s not forget that they have some good young players and a $250 million payroll that is still substantial. It’s easy when you push a button and it works, like much of the time in 2022. We are the third best team in our division and have to work on improving that and getting closer to being on par. Lots to do in the off-season.

    • James T OBrien

      There’s an excellent article on Paul Sewald by Gregg Joyce over in the NY Post. It talks about the changes that he made that turned him into an outstanding reliever (notwithstanding last night). They also talked to Hefner about his work with Sewald while both were with the Mets. Heffner saw what needed to be done, but admits that he didn’t push Sewald hard enough to make the changes needed. I’ve also seen that more than a few clubs are interested in Hefner in anticipation that Stearns will want to bring in his own team of coaches.

      I think those who are blaming Hefner for the collapse of the pitching staff should consider his track record more carefully. Hefner has twice led the Mets to sub-4.00 team ERAs during his four years with the club (2021, 2022). I recently read an article listing more, but I simply couldn’t find it today. Perhaps someone knows where it is.

      This article contains many quotations about Hefner from various Mets’ pitchers: https://nypost.com/2022/04/18/pitching-coach-jeremy-hefner-is-mets-unsung-hero-in-hot-start/

      Here’s a link to another excellent article in The Athletic talking with Hefner about coaching pitchers: https://theathletic.com/4654653/2023/06/30/mets-pitching-jeremy-hefner/

  • Woodrow

    Third best team? Marlins made the playoffs,Nats have lots of big time prospects,if our Baby Mets don’t produce they might be a last place team.

    • NYM6986

      There was really nothing special about the Marlins especially when Alcantra went down. We certainly underperformed, and with only 10 more wins we would’ve had the last wildcard spot. We are ahead of the Nats in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here