Is the Mets bullpen suddenly a strength?

The Mets added two hard-throwing relievers to their bullpen mix this week with spring training on the horizon.
Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros
Baltimore Orioles v Houston Astros / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

A serious question facing David Stearns and the front office this offseason had to do with the New York Mets bullpen construction for the 2024 season. The Mets' bullpen last year was a major weakness after Edwin Diaz suffered a season-ending knee injury in the World Baseball Classic in March, and Stearns was tasked for cleaning up the mess Billy Eppler left behind.

How have Mr. Stearns and his front office addressed it? They've added 13 relievers to either the 40-man roster or minor league deals with an invite to spring training since the start of the offseason. Two of them happened yesterday, in free agents Jake Diekman and Shintaro Fujinami to major league contracts. So it looks like the Mets are done adding relievers this offseason.

So in an offseason with fans wondering that the Mets were doing, because they were used to the team making big moves in free agency and trades in each of their first three offseasons under Steve Cohen's ownership.

The New York Mets bullpen depth is a strength for 2024, thanks to an anayltics-based approach.

To me, the biggest "yeah, but" for each of the past two seasons has been the bullpen depth. In 2022, the brilliance of Edwin Diaz masked the bullpen as a deficiency, though some of their middle relievers flunked the eye test. In 2023, three of the eight relievers on the Opening Day roster were designated for assignment by the middle of June, and the unit finished in the bottom half of the league in ERA and walks per nine innings.

This offseason, the Mets put an emphasis on raw talent and pitching analytics, and they believe their pitching lab will maximize performances. For example, Jake Diekman's "Stuff+" rating on Fangraphs, a figure used to determine physical characteristics of a pitcher's arsenal, was 141 last season (with 100 being average), ranked the sixth best of 863 pitchers who threw a pitch last season (No. 1 was Jacob deGrom by the way at 161).

The Mets looked at Diekman's fastball characteristics and identified it as a fit for what the team is trying to do. Now it's up to the Mets to clean up his control issues (he had a 15.6 percent walk rate in each of the past two seasons), and he can be an elite reliever with his fastball stuff.

They took that same approach with some of their other signings this offseason. Shintaro Fujinami's Stuff+ rating last season was 114, Jorge Lopez's was 112, while Michael Tonkin had a mark of 109.

None of those names are household names, but the talent is there, and the accumulation of it from the Mets was hardly recognized until this week's additions. With the return of Edwin Diaz, this bullpen could be one of the nastiest, most intimidating relief groups in all of baseball. Having a pitching coach like Jeremy Hefner helps a lot. Now all of a sudden, I'm feeling 2024 could be better than most people think.