Mets Must Address Bullpen After Lockout

Although this has been a very exciting offseason for the Mets, the team still has one glaring issue—the bullpen. Aaron Loup, who was their best bullpen arm, is now with the Angels. So how do they improve the pen in such an important year? There are options that would instantly improve it, one being free agent lefty Andrew Chafin. Chafin, an 8-year veteran, had the best year of his career in 2021, posting a 1.83 ERA in 71 games. Even if Chafin’s 2022 is underwhelming, it would still be a vast improvement over what New York has now. Chafin enters the ’22 season at 31 years of age. A 2 or 3 year deal is likely on the table, which the Mets can definitely handle.

Reuniting With an Old Friend

Another solid option is a familiar face in Collin McHugh. McHugh was drafted by the Mets back in 2008. He made his big league debut in 2012, but his Mets tenure did not go well. He only appeared in 11 games with the Mets over 2 seasons and posted an 8.26 ERA. In June of 2013, McHugh was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Young Jr. McHugh also struggled in Colorado, only appearing in 4 games and getting designated for assignment after the 2013 season.

McHugh finally found his footing with the Houston Astros in 2014. In 6 seasons with the team, he had a 3.63 ERA. In 2020, McHugh signed a one year deal with the Red Sox. He had elbow issues and did not end up appearing in a game with Boston. Given McHugh’s age and elbow issue, it wasn’t looking good for 2021, but he rebounded nicely with the Tampa Bay Rays. In 37 games Collin posted a 1.55 ERA. The risk is still very much there with McHugh given his elbow and his age, but a 1 or 2 year deal wouldn’t hurt and would give the Mets another solid option in the pen. As every Mets fan knows, you can never have too much depth, and McHugh is more than capable of being flexible and bailing the team out if the injury bug bites again in 2022.

Could Jansen Be a Match for the Mets Bullpen?

Kenley Jansen is also a free agent, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Mets gave him a shot. Anyone that follows the Mets knows how shaky Edwin Diaz can be at times, and Jansen could perhaps take some of the pressure off of Diaz. The 12 year veteran pitched well last season, putting up a 2.22 ERA. He is 34 and has had many injury issues in the past, but he’s proved that he has plenty left in the tank . The 3 time All-Star would also bring plenty of postseason experience to the bullpen. Outside of Trevor May, not one pitcher in the Mets bullpen has ever appeared in a postseason game. If the Mets were to make the playoffs this year, that could be a problem. Perhaps Jansen could be a part of the solution to that problem, with Chafin and McHugh who also have experience in October.

Can These Veterans Keep Up Their Success?

One thing that all of these players have in common is they are all veterans. This obviously includes major injury risk, which is nothing new to the Mets. In the past, the Mets have added pitchers such as Dellin Betances to the bullpen with the same hope of getting a few solid years out of a veteran, but it just didn’t work out. So why are these options different? All three of these players are coming off of very solid seasons. That obviously does not guarantee success this year, but it is a drastic change from the Wilpon solution in Betances, whom they signed after only appearing in one game during an injury plagued 2019 season. Signing any veteran is a gamble, but the gamble has greater odds of success when that veteran is coming off of a successful season.

Photo Credit: Sportnieuws.nl

Is it time for Thomas Szapucki to get called up?

With the Mets currently having the best rotational ERA in MLB, you may be asking yourself why there should be any changes to the rotation. While most of the rotation has been lights out, David Peterson has struggled. The 25-year-old has a 6.32 ERA with a negative WAR. As the season moves along, the Mets can’t afford to have bullpen games every fifth day. So, what should they do? One option is calling up Thomas Szapucki.

Who Is Thomas Szapucki/How Does He Fit In The Rotation?

Thomas Szapucki was drafted by the Mets in the sixth round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. He’s been with the organization ever since and has done fairly well in the Mets system. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 which made him miss the entirety of the 2018 season. Despite this, he’s been a solid pitching prospect. The highest level he’s been in is Triple-A, which he just started this season.

He’s made six starts, posting a 3.51 ERA. He would fit in the rotation very nicely, essentially serving the same role that Peterson is serving right now. In this scenario, Peterson would be sent down to Triple-A for a while with the hopes that he’ll pitch better and regain the confidence he had during the 2020 season. Szapucki would have the opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity he’s been waiting for and fighting through injury for. If this happened and worked nicely, the rotation would be even more dominant against tough division rivals like the Atlanta Braves in important games.

Photo from NorthJersey.com