The New York Mets made a great bullpen addition with Trevor May. Despite the move, New York should continue to use their financial power to add relievers to strengthen a below-average bullpen.
While the biggest bats in free agency were connected to the New York Mets on the eve of free agency, pitching was always seen as the biggest need in the organization. Even with the continuous flirtation between the Mets and Trevor Bauer, New York’s needs spanned beyond that. Pitching, both in the starting rotation and bullpen were viewed as major needs in order to contend in the National League East next season.
On Tuesday, New York opened up on the reliever market, adding Trevor May on a two-year deal worth $15 million. While May does assist a lackluster New York Mets bullpen, New York should continue to be aggressive in adding to the back of their bullpen corps.
The addition of May gives New York another flamethrower in the back of their bullpen for the late-inning, setting up a potential trio of May, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Diaz. Last season, May averaged 96.3 miles per hour on his 4-seam fastball and 96.4 on his lesser-used sinker. Via Baseballsavant, May’s whiff percentage ranked in the 99th percentile, while his strikeout rate, a blistering 39.6 percent, ranked in the 98th percentile.
Of the list of relief arms without the “closer” resume (i.e saves), May is arguably the best arm on the market and the Mets pounced to add him to the roster. Still, there’s much work to be done and the Mets should be advantageous and strike again, now that teams have completed their non-tenders and the market is flooded with even more talented pitchers.
Last season, New York’s bullpen finished 22nd in Fangraphs WAR at 0.5. Part of the reason for their troubles was the poor pitching from pitchers who received a sizable chunk of innings last year. After Diaz and Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, and Jared Hughes finished out the top four for the Mets bullpen in terms of innings pitched.
So while May is a solid add, the Mets could use one, maybe even two more arms for the bullpen to avoid going to their second group as much as they did in the shortened 2019-20 season.
The big-name here remains former Indians closer and current free agent reliever Brad Hand.
After all 30 teams passed on claiming him at one-year, $10 million this season, Hand entered the market as one of the top closers available. Even after a slight decline in fastball velocity (92.7 mph in 2019, 91.4 mph in 2020, via BaseballSavant), Hand remained an effective reliever by striking people out (92nd percentile in strikeout rate) and avoiding free passes (92nd percentile in walk rate). He’s also a lefty, which is a need for New York after the non-tender of Chasen Shreve.
Sandy Alderson broached the topic of acquiring Hand during his introductory press conference, citing timing as an issue. Now, with Hand as a free agent, the Mets should strike again, to form a fearsome foursome in the backend of the bullpen, or even a deadly trio if New York decides to place Lugo back into the starting rotation.
In a world where the Mets keep and maintain Hand, May, Lugo, and Diaz in the bullpen, not only would the bullpen be stabilized for the regular season, but would enter any postseason scenario as one of the best bullpens in the National League. With the evolution of how the bullpen is used during the postseason, multiple high-level arms are needed to have any chance of success.
If the Mets were to pass on Hand, then the market still has several players who can assist in providing bullpen relief.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring Corey Knebel from the Milwaukee Brewers, Blake Treinen becomes an interesting name in the free-agent market. After signing a one-year, $10 million deal with Los Angeles, Treinen rebounded with a solid season. His fastball velocity remained elite, but he doesn’t strike out people as he did in Oakland. Still, opponents find Treinen tough to square up and that combination creates several groundballs.
Another player that could intrigue New York is another former Twins reliever, Matt Wisler.
After years as a starter, Wisler bounced around the league before moving to a swingman role and found some success in a modest role in Minnesota. The standard numbers (0-1, 1.07 ERA, 25.1 IP) won’t pop off the screen, but the advanced numbers suggest a potential buy-low candidate. Wisler struck to just his fastball and slider, and while he doesn’t throw heat, just 91.9 mph on his 4-seam fastball, Wisler had a barrel percentage of 3.6%.
Wisler doesn’t have the track record of a Hand or Treinen, the Mets should be interesting him in a buy-low situation.
With the addition of May to the bullpen, the New York Mets add another strong arm to the back of the bullpen. Between May, Lugo, and Diaz, New York has three strong arms that could handle the pressure of the late innings and stabilize one of their main needs heading into the offseason.
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However, the Mets would be wise to use their newfound finances to strike again in the bullpen market if they expect to contend for a playoff spot next season. Hand would be an ideal need, based on his track record, the team needs, and perceived interest from Mets President Sandy Alderson. However, the likes of Treinen and even lower-level options like Wisler would suffice in turning one of the team’s biggest weaknesses into a strength.