Following the loss of superstar closer Edwin Díaz to a full-thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee during the World Baseball Classic, the Mets bullpen looked quite different on opening day than how Billy Eppler planned.
Thirty-five games into the season, the Mets sit one game under .500 at 17-18, and a massive reason for their early season struggles has been the bullpen.
Who is Struggling?
Let’s start with two players the blue and orange resigned following successful 2022 campaigns. First, Tommy Hunter got a minor-league deal following an injury-riddled season that saw him pitch only 22.1 innings but to a 2.42 ERA. This season Hunter has a 7.11 ERA in 12.2 innings.
Adam Ottavino parlayed a 2.06 ERA in 66 appearances into a two-year, 14.5 million dollar deal to return as the setup man. Ottavino has been solid with a 3.75 ERA, but his tendency to give up runs in crucial moments has become all too familiar for Mets fans.
John Curtiss, Dennis Santana, and Denyi Reyes have all been optioned to the minor leagues following multiple poor outings.
While even their in-season reinforcements have struggled, Dominic Leone was signed after he opted out of his contract with the Texas Rangers following eight appearances in Triple-A, where he had a 1.59 ERA. Instead, Leone has a 6.00 ERA and gave up two runs in yesterday’s 13-6 loss.
It Can’t Be All Bad, Right?
Despite all the struggles, the bullpen has had a few bright spots. First, 38-year-old David Robertson has effectively replaced Díaz in the closer role. In 14.1 innings, Robertson has a 0.63 ERA with six saves and 18 strikeouts.
Drew Smith has looked like his 2021 self pitching to a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings with 18 strikeouts and seven holds.
Off-season trade acquisition Brooks Raley has been excellent, with 12 of his 14 appearances being scoreless, but he is currently on the 15-day IL due to left elbow inflammation.
What Can the Mets Do?
This early in the season, the Mets have limited options to upgrade their bullpen as a trade is unlikely, with most teams feeling like they still have a chance to be one of the 12 teams in the playoffs.
They could start by calling up T.J. McFarland and Grant Hartwig, who has been excellent in relief for Triple-A Syracuse, pitching to a 1.69 and 1.35 ERA, respectively.
The blue and orange could also turn to free agency and take a shot at veterans Archie Bradley, Garrett Richards, or the long-rumored Zack Britton.
Regardless with Raley injured and Robertson and Smith unable to pitch every day, the rest of the bullpen must perform better before the Atlanta Braves build a lead that the Mets can’t catch.
Next up for the Mets is a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.