It may, after all, still be Edwin Diaz, Brooks Raley, and everyone else in the New York Mets bullpen by the time we get to Opening Day. Rather than heavily attack the free agent market of relief pitchers, David Stearns has decided there’s probably just as much of a chance as anyone having a big year.
Guys coming off of injury-riddled seasons or huge downswings in their career continue to get added to the Mets roster. The latest, Jorge Lopez, is an especially interesting case. The Mets signed him to a one-year deal worth $2 million. It was in 2022 when he pitched to a 1.68 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles as their closer and made his first and only All-Star team. Traded at the deadline to the Minnesota Twins, the wheels came off and in 2023 he had a 5.13 ERA with three different teams following a trade and waiver claim.
Lopez’s sudden success in 2022 was a surprise for all. His career 5.51 ERA actually went down last season. He’ll fit in nicely with the rest of the Mets relievers who apparently will slaughter or save them in 2024.
The danger the Mets are getting into with only boom or bust relief pitchers on one-year deals
As strategic as it is to spend less on the bullpen arms and take gambles on guys like Lopez, the Mets should stray away from this all or nothing notion. Chances are not everyone will have a Renaissance for them. They can always trade everyone away if needed at the deadline and recoup something even if it’s another more controllable arm to play with later on.
The continued signing of pitchers with ugly or completely absent numbers last season shouldn’t be the only additions made to the bullpen. Otherwise the Mets are going to get caught in a place where they have no one at all for the 2025 team pitching in relief.
We saw the Mets face a similar challenge in recent winters. Turnover in the bullpen isn’t uncommon, however, last offseason they did lose Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and Trevor Williams. They were able to extend Edwin Diaz before he got to the open market and bring back Adam Ottavino. Replacing five arms in the bullpen proved to be a little too much. Raley and David Robertson pitched well, but the injury to Diaz and underperformances from other pitches had the Mets handing out more innings than we’d like to players in the Jeff Brigham category.
The Mets are in cost-cutting mode but not willing to completely give up on the season. An affordable one-year deal with Lopez is a different kind of deal than what we’ve gotten used to seeing the Mets do in more recent winters under Steve Cohen. It fits in well with Stearns’ plan.
Concentrated on signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto at the moment above everyone else, the Lopez signing is one to feel optimistic about. The trouble part is the Mets are getting into a position where their entire bullpen will be a bit more mysterious. Roster spots are filling up fast. Lopez could end up as a steal for the Mets this offseason or a tragic addition. It’s the theme of the pitching staff thus far.