The New York Mets have had a successful offseason so far. They have replaced their starters that departed in free agency, and they upgraded the catching position by signing Omar Narvaez.
However, one of the earliest moves the Mets made was locking up Edwin Diaz at the beginning of the offseason. Re-signing Diaz to a five-year deal was indicative of how much the Mets valued their bullpen, and how determined they were to retain the pitchers who were integral to their success in 2022.
It set the tone for the rest of the offseason. The bullpen remained a large focus in the Mets’ plans for upgrading the team, and there is no sign that they are content with their bullpen.
The Mets bullpen is shaping up nicely for 2023, but is it the best in the National League East?
Mets fans should be encouraged by this. The team has long struggled to field an effective bullpen, but 2022 reversed that trend. By ERA, the Mets bullpen ranked 10th in the majors, which was good for second in their division, only behind the Atlanta Braves:
Atlanta Braves - 3.03
Mets - 3.55
Washington Nationals - 3.84
Miami Marlins - 4.15
Philadelphia Phillies - 4.27
Heading into 2023, Mets fans should be encouraged by the current state of the team’s bullpen. Although they lost Seth Lugo and Joely Rodriguez, these two key losses are not devastating. Lugo’s production could easily be replaced by David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, or Tylor Megill, if one of them shifts to the bullpen on a permanent basis. As for Rodriguez, he pitched poorly in 2022, and the Mets replaced him with Brooks Raley in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Raley is an immediate upgrade over Rodriguez. He provided the Rays with 53 innings of work last year, striking out 61 hitters and finishing the 2022 season with a 2.68 ERA. For comparison, Rodriguez finished the year with a 4.47 ERA and 50 ⅓ innings pitched.
On top of that, the Mets also signed David Robertson to a contract. A veteran relief pitcher, Robertson is widely considered to be one of the better relievers in the game. In 2022, he pitched 64 innings, striking out 81 batters and compiling a 2.40 ERA over the course of the season. Robertson fits exactly what the Mets wanted: a dependable pitcher who has proven experience pitching for a big market club with high expectations.
These moves already cement the Mets’ standing over the Marlins, Nationals, and Phillies, who have not made the type of upgrades to their bullpen that the Mets have. The question is whether the team has caught up to the Braves in regards to the strength of their bullpen.
Thus far, the Braves have made only small tweaks to their bullpen, and for good reason. The Braves 2022 bullpen was excellent, and one of the main reasons why they won 101 games last year. Although star closer Kenley Jansen left, the Braves traded for Joe Jimenez, who spent last year with the Detroit Tigers, and also signed Dennis Santana to a contract. Nick Anderson, who was injured last year, also joins the Braves bullpen.
On paper, the Mets and the Braves appear to have similarly talented bullpens. Both teams have a balanced attack in the bullpen; they have hard-throwing pitchers who should serve them well in late-inning situations, left-handed specialists, and enough long relief arms that can help their starters not get overworked.
The similarity between the two teams should make the National League East race interesting throughout the season, as injuries in their bullpens could very well be the difference between who wins the division and who is fighting for the Wild Card.