We are justified in screaming and hollering about a potential DH plan where DJ Stewart starts against a lot of righties and Mark Vientos grabs the at-bats by the horns whenever a lefty is on the mound. However it is the New York Mets may plan to patch together a designated hitter plan without adding a proven player at the position will have us shaking our fists.
A much-talked about topic already, a lesser aspect of the Mets roster has gone completely ignored.
Coveted minor league options for relief pitchers can sometimes make or break a player’s chances of being there on Opening Day. Because it’s an accepted practice for teams to shuttle bullpen arms up and down from the minors, the expectation is to always have at least one or two spots available.
Not the Mets. They’re overflowing with bullpen arms on the 40-man roster without minor league options available to them. How can they possibly manage this?
The Mets roster is stiff with a lack of bullpen flexibility
On the 40-man roster, only Kodai Senga, Reed Garrett, Josh Walker, and Grant Hartwig are pitchers the team can option to the minors. Austin Adams is on a split contract so we can lump him in there, too.
The Mets are already superheroes when it comes to having optional starting pitchers. Jose Butto, Joey Lucchesi, Tylor Megill, and David Peterson all have the ability to get sent down. The trouble is finding any room to move them back up.
The Mets already have an overflow of two pitchers they’ll need to get rid of in some fashion. Easy enough. But then comes the tricky part. It’s April 15 and the Mets haven’t had a day off since April 4. They’re about to begin a three-game series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The relievers were already tormented by the Atlanta Braves a week earlier and the Kansas City Royals, surprisingly, didn’t give them much rest over the weekend either. What can they do?
Solutions for the Mets and their bullpen
Phantom injuries aren’t the solution especially with the watchful eye of Major League Baseball following last year’s accusations against Billy Eppler—the ones we were supposed to know the result of by the end of 2023, for what it’s worth. A bum shoulder can help a team promote a fresher arm for a week, but how is this a solution?
There isn’t an easy way out of this. Any free agents the Mets will sign of quality will have their options used up already. They don’t have any obvious minor leaguer who can already pencil in for a roster spot, although the Mets have actively given us pitchers like Cole Sulser, Chad Smith, and Danny Young who will pitch their hearts out to make the team.
For the Mets to have a semi-six man rotation, they’ll already need the roster spot where they can demote or promote at will. Megill or whoever can get called up to make their start on the day of. He can then get replaced by a different reliever with options. Immediately after the game, Megill is demoted for a different relief pitcher due to MLB’s rule of 10 days needing to pass before a player can get recalled with the exception being an injury.
Fortunately, the Mets do have some easy DFA or even trade candidates on the MLB roster we could part with. Sean Reid-Foley and Phil Bickford are the pair. Replace one with a revolving door spot. Either an offseason minor league addition makes the club or the Mets trade for an optional reliever.
Signings like Michael Tonkin and Jorge Lopez were cheap, but also create a little bit of early havoc in having the luxury to put a fresher arm on the mound. Due to their lack of any true long man as well, look for the Mets to remain open-minded about how the final bullpen is built.