Craig Kimbrel isn’t the only bullpen arm in Chicago the Mets should be inquiring about.
While Angels might not be selling, the Cubbies are hosting a tag sale for the rest of the league.
Pretty much everyone on the team is available in some capacity, and that includes two dominant relievers. Kimbrel is a household name from his days back in Atlanta, but Ryan Tepera probably isn’t.
Unless you’re a fan of the Cubs or Blue Jays, the only reason you’d probably know of Tepera is from when he received an accidental 10th place NL MVP vote last season when a voter accidentally clicked his name instead of Trea Turner’s. At the time of the vote, Dan Gartland of Sports Illustrated identified him as “a relief pitcher for the Cubs, and an extremely average one.”
Now, Tepera is in his seventh major league season, and his second with the Cubs. Before this season he’d always been a solid pitcher, with an ERA in the mid-3s and an ERA+ of 119, but he never was as good as he’s been this season.
Through 43.1 innings, Tepera has a 2.91 ERA, 0.785 WHIP and 136 ERA+. He’s on pace to have a WHIP below 1.1 for the first time since his rookie year in 2015 and an ERA below three for the first time since 2016, a year where he only threw 18.1 innings.
If the Mets were to trade for him he should at the very least be good, even if he doesn’t continue at the pace he’s been on this season.
Still, even with that, the potential future Hall of Famer in Kimbrel is the real prize of all the bullpen arms potentially available at the deadline.
Kimbrel is probably the best reliever in baseball this season, putting up a minuscule 0.49 ERA and 0.709 WHIP through 36.2 innings pitched. While it’s not a huge sample size, it’s enough to know he’s pitching some of the best baseball of his career. His ERA+ is 824, like, come on! That’s ridiculous.
His Baseball Savant page is absurd, as he’s sitting in the 100th percentile in SIX different categories: Expected weighted on-base average, expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging, strikeout percentage and whiff percentage.
After an injury-riddled and supremely disappointing first two years in Chicago, he’s finally living up to the three-year $43 million contract they gave him. Unfortunately for the Cubs, he’s doing it in a year where they’re selling at the deadline, not competing for a playoff spot.
Kimbrel is the only person on this list who isn’t a full rental, but with a team option for 2022, he essentially is. He’d only be back next season if the Mets decide to pick up his $16 million option.
That will probably increase the price tag of what it will take to get him though because if he finishes out this season well his option will almost certainly be worth picking up.
The other big difference between Kimbrel and everyone else on this list is that if the Mets were to acquire him, they would have no choice but to put him into the full-time closer role. That would move Diaz out of the ninth inning and into a spot that he is famously worse in — non save opportunities.
Even so, Kimbrel is too good to hold off on trading for him just because of what it might do to Diaz. If the right deal pops up to bring Kimbrel back to the NL East, the Mets have to do it.
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They can’t do all of the deals, but they also shouldn’t feel comfortable with what they currently have in the bullpen. They need to add to it, and Givens, Cishek, Iglesias, Tepera and Kimbrel all could be possible solutions.