The New York Mets will have their hands full in regards to the pitching staff in 2024. So far this offseason, David Stearns has added plenty of relief pitching arms with limited track records of success. Though this route does not guarantee success, it does bring an internal competition for 26-man roster spots during Spring Training. The reasoning behind this philosophy is quite simple: bring in pitchers with motivation to prove themselves as quality major leaguers. If the player fails to perform, the Mets can just cut ties without losing any resources.
Jeremy Hefner will be the man ultimately tasked with turning the corner for some of these relief pitchers. His table was already set this offseason with players from last season such as Tylor Megill and Drew Smith who have struggled to find consistency at the major league level. While Hefner took much criticism last season, he is very highly regarded as a great pitching coach around the MLB. He has now survived 3 managerial tenures in Rojas, Showalter, and now Mendoza, showing how much trust the Mets have in him as well. With that being said, which pitcher will be among Hefner's greatest priorities?
Jorge Lopez is a big project for Jeremy Hefner to get right.
At 31-years-old, Jorge Lopez is yet to find stability in his major league career. After starting his career with the Stearns-led Milwaukee Brewers, Lopez has bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation with 5 different teams in the last 8 seasons. While playing for mostly rebuilding teams in the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, Lopez finally found his stride in 2022 when he was an all-star in the first half with a 1.68 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched. However, Lopez did not continue his success into 2023 where he had a 5.95 ERA, splitting time between the Orioles, Minnesota Twins, and Miami Marlins.
Lopez's last two seasons in the major leagues show the track record of a typical relief pitcher- very inconsistent. The fact he has been on so many teams since 2018 shows many coaching staff love his pitch mix and believe they can fix him with the right analytics or organizational philosophy. The Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians have become pitching laboratories having fixed arms such as Carlos Carrasco, Gerritt Cole, and Charlie Morton.
For Hefner, the bullpen will be of top priority to get turned around in 2024. With the starting rotation of 2015 long in the past, the Mets can no longer view their pitching staff as the strength of the organization. The collateral effect of this is a higher reliance on the bullpen to get more outs late in games. With this in mind, Hefner will look to the former all-star right-hander in Lopez to take on a bigger role for the Mets in 2024.