Mets: Chasen Shreve earned another shot in the bullpen next year
Recently non-tendered reliever Chasen Shreve pitched well enough for the New York Mets in 2020 to deserve a bullpen opportunity in 2021.
If you’re a New York Mets fan like me, when the team signed lefty reliever Chasen Shreve to a minor league deal on November 21, 2019, you shrugged and went on with your day. I knew Shreve mostly from his days with the New York Yankees, with whom he spent parts of four seasons. Through the 2019 season, Shreve had compiled a respectable major league ERA of 3.71, with all of his appearances coming out of the bullpen. He was a decent pitcher, but I did not exactly throw a party to celebrate his minor league deal when he signed last November.
Then, shortly before the MLB non-tender deadline on December 2, the Mets non-tendered Shreve, making him a free agent. The fact that I was genuinely disappointed by this news means that Shreve massively overachieved in a Mets uniform last season, which I suppose is a good thing.
In 2020, even with a healthy Justin Wilson on the roster for the full 60-game sprint, Shreve managed to surprise almost everyone in Metsland with his steady performance. He went from “questionable to make the major league roster” to one of the most reliable pitchers out of the Mets bullpen, finishing the year with a 3.96 ERA in 17 appearances. That might not be saying much, considering that the Mets bullpen as a whole skidded to a 4.60 ERA last season.
Still, Shreve’s ability to go multiple innings more than once a week helped the Mets emerge victorious from many tight games. He continued to be extremely effective against lefties, holding them to a .063 batting average versus holding righties to a .263 average in 2020. In his 17 outings, Shreve gave up one or no runs in 14 of them.
Shreve’s batting average against (BAA) was also lower the deeper he got into outings. His BAA per outing on pitches 1-25 was .208, compared to .118 on pitches 26-50. This effectiveness in longer appearances made him especially valuable in the bullpen when Seth Lugo, known for high-leverage, multi-inning outings, went into the starting rotation.
With Shreve non-tendered, the Mets bullpen is currently bereft of quality lefthanders. They still have Daniel Zamora under contract, who has shown occasional flashes of effectiveness in limited big league action. However, Zamora has yet to prove that he can be relied upon to get key outs over a long stretch of time in a full season. He did not pitch at all in the majors in 2020, but in 2019 he pitched to a tepid 5.19 ERA in 17 games.
Wilson has been the other Mets lefty out of the pen over the past couple of seasons, and while he has mostly come through in big spots, he is now a free agent. The Mets recently signed righty reliever Trevor May to a two-year, $15.5 million deal, and Wilson likely would command a similar contract. I would absolutely be open to bringing back Wilson, but even with him back in the pen, adding Shreve back in the mix would further improve the relief corps.
Even with a solid season in 2020, bringing back Shreve would not cost the Mets substantial money. He would have been due roughly $2 million in 2021 had he been tendered a contract, which would have still made him one of the cheaper arms in the Mets bullpen. Quality relievers are always hard to come by cheaply in the major leagues, and the Mets would be passing up on a chance to retain a quality pitcher at a bargain if they let Shreve walk.
If there is one thing I learned from playoff teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020, it’s that a team can never have too deep of a bullpen. Mets fans are used to having one, maybe two guys out of the pen that don’t give them heart palpitations upon entering a game. In this era of baseball, the Mets simply will not be competing for a playoff spot if they do not have several trustworthy relievers. Shreve proved in 2020 that he could be one of those guys for the Amazins going forward into next season.
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Though he was not a flashy signing entering the 2020 season, Shreve was more valuable to the Mets bullpen than most of us expected he would be. Though he is no longer officially contracted by the Mets, his reasonable salary expectations, strong 2020 performance, and lefty throwing arm make him a no-brainer to bring back to the bullpen next season.