Following the departure of starting pitcher Jacob DeGrom, the New York Mets were suddenly faced with the pressing urgency to patch the gaping hole he left behind in their rotation. So without much delay, the Mets not only signed three-time Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander to a multi-year deal but also acquired the promising 29-year-old Japanese rookie Kodai Senga.
In addition to their starting rotation, the Mets addressed some of their greater bullpen priorities as well, such as re-signing closer Edwin Diaz, relievers Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith while also acquiring veteran David Robertson and 27-year-old, Elieser Hernández. Moreover, starting pitchers such as Tylor McGill and David Peterson could receive more innings as relievers should the Mets’ five-man rotation hold its own and remain healthy over 2023.
But despite having a closer like Diaz and three good relievers such as Ottavino, Robertson, and Smith, a lingering question that still remains is whether the Mets have done enough with their bullpen over the offseason to ensure it provides the robust support the rotation needs in relief.
In short, the Mets bullpen could really use an extra free-agent reliever or two, particularly with this team’s World Series ambitions. Though Diaz proved he could pitch more than one inning last season, having four good reliever options won’t cut it. Plus, McGill and Peterson might be needed in the rotation should any injuries come into play.
With that in mind, here’s a look at two relievers the Mets should pursue before the 2023 campaign kicks off on March 28th.
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Two relief pitchers the Mets could still target to bolster the bullpen:
1. Alex Reyes
If the Mets want to add an underrated yet promising arm to their rotation, signing free agent Alex Reyes would fulfill that. The 28-year-old, hard-throwing reliever and 2021 All-Star has proven how great he can be in just five seasons in the league. And the Mets should look to give the right-hander a shot considering how young he still is.
One-year wonder performances are certainly a reality in baseball, particularly in the MLB. But the kind of 2021 performance Reyes was able to produce was quite spectacular and makes one wonder if he has the ability to produce something similar, if not better. Over the 2021 season, Reyes secured a career-high 29 saves, 95 strikeouts and finished with a 10-8 record to go with a 3.24 ERA in 72.1 innings pitched.
Yes, Reyes did miss the entire 2017 season because of Tommy John surgery and then all of the 2022 season due to a shoulder injury, which also received surgery. So he has an injury-prone history that is risky and concerning to gamble on. But with these major medical setbacks behind him, Reyes could be in better shape to deliver the way he used to, and the Mets should take a chance on him.
2. Corey Knebel
If the Mets want to look towards a safer yet more expensive option to add for their bullpen, they should look no further than Corey Knebel. Following a breakout, All-Star season in 2017, where he posted a 1.78 ERA and finished with 39 saves to go with 126 strikeouts, Knebel would end up requiring Tommy John surgery in 2019 and missed the entire season.
Despite this setback, the veteran 31-year-old reliever ended up bouncing back in a promising way over 2021 and once more in 2022. After going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA and three saves in 25.2 innings pitched for the Dodgers in 2021, Knebel would end up finishing with a 3-5 record, a 3.43 ERA, 12 saves, and 41 strikeouts.
Has Knebel been able to produce anything close to his peak season in 2017? Unfortunately, no. But the improvement has been there from season to season. And with still plenty left in his tank, Knebel makes for a viable option for the Mets to pursue before the start of the 2023 season. The only catch for the Mets: Knebel has a market value of a little over $5 million per season.