Many writer colleagues of mine here at Rising Apple, as well as many New York Mets fans in general, have clamored for the Mets to possibly add another bat to an offense that ranks in lower third in many offensive categories thus far 90 games into the regular season. While there are times where I myself have been frustrated with the lack of run production we have seen with this ball club, I believe a large part of their offensive woes should be resolved going forward in 2021.
The Mets are a team that have been built to be as good as the sum of their collective parts. This means that if one or two players go down, the rest of the starters and the players on our bench should be good enough to pick up the offensive slack. But when you have four or five major starters all go down simultaneously in your offense as well as a few bench pieces meant to contribute, then more than likely your offense will seem nonexistent. Unfortunately, the latter situation is what the Mets had to deal with for the majority of the first half of 2021. This is why today we see a team currently ranked second to last in the Major League in total runs scored and in RBI.
But all that should change now going forward. Ninety percent of the starting offense is back and playing every day and we are seeing it result in more runs being scored per game over the last three weeks. The bench players are also back as Nido, Villar and Pillar continue to contribute and get chances to play everyday along with guys such as Travis Blankenhorn and Billy McKinney. So offensively, going forward, I think the Mets have seen their most stormiest days behind them as far as offensive availability goes.
The Mets should seriously consider adding a late inning shut-down reliever if they want to hold their first place lead in the NL East and go deep into the postseason.
Where I believe the Mets will really start to see problems going forward is the back end of their bullpen. Mets total bullpen currently ranks 5th best in lowest ERA and is tied for first in all of baseball with the least runs given up, making it one of the most effective bullpens in the majors. However, as of late, we are seeing their set up and closer men come up short when it counts late in games. For the first time in his career, Edwin Diaz has blown three consecutive save opportunities (which is hard to believe consider how bad he was in 2019) and Seth Lugo has also pitched to a 9.45 ERA in his six July appearances as well. Over their last three ball games, Mets’ starting pitchers have only gone a total of 5 innings, being forced to over work their more reliable backbone core of Trevor May, Jeurys Familia and Drew Smith.
Even though Edwin Diaz has finally started to look like the Edwin Diaz of his Mariners days for the first time since the Mets acquired him, there still is no guarantee that he can maintain that mental focus for a whole season and into the postseason. I for one, am willing to bet he does right the ship and continues his effective performances, but I’d still be more comfortable removing any doubt that we blow close games late by adding another elite reliever to our staff just to make sure.
This is why I think the Mets would be more beneficial in going after a relief pitcher the likes of Craig Kimbrel rather than pursuing a big name bat. After struggling in 2019 and most of 2020 with the Chicago Cubs, Kimbrel has finally made good on that three year contract he signed with Chicago and is pitching the best baseball of his career. He has a 0.53 ERA with 58 strikeouts in just 33 IP as of July 20th, 2021. There is no doubt he would be a huge addition to an already solid core of relief pitchers the Mets rely on to shut down games late.
Adding Kimbrel to our bullpen also lengthens out the quality of our pen and prevents us from over using relievers for too many pitches on consecutive days. Coming down to the last two and a half months of this regular season, we are just going to rely on our already taxed bullpen even more to get big outs in late inning situations and we need them to be as fresh as ever. Relying on Kimbrel in the eighth or ninth inning allows us to do just that.
The Mets also have the pieces in the minors to get a deal done. Kimbrel would just be a rent-a-free agent type as his contract expires after 2021 and he can be bought out for cheap due to a team option. The Mets may be able to land him without having to touch any of their top 6 promising young minor league prospects. This would not be the case if they were to trade for an All Star bat the likes of Javier Baez or Kris Bryant.
With the Cubs in the market for a young cost-controlled third baseman next year to replace a possible departure of Kris Bryant, the Mets could offer them a return of MLB ready 3B prospect Mark Vientos and throw in a starting pitcher like Tomas Szapucki. That should at least get the ball rolling for a possible consideration of a deal with Chicago.
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As Mets fans, we should start considering the likelihood that we will make the postseason and now begin thinking more along the lines of how to make us stronger when we get to October. Adding a solid closer to the back end of a sometimes shaky late inning pen would certainly put us more in the winning column of those late inning one run ball games than it would in the losing column.