Who should fill out Mets’ bullpen in 2022? Breaking down internal and external options

Andrew Chafin Craig Kimbrel Drew Smith Trevor Williams treated art
Andrew Chafin Craig Kimbrel Drew Smith Trevor Williams treated art

Whenever the MLB lockout ends — and it kind of has to end by the middle of February in order for the season to start on time — the Mets will get back to work building their roster for 2022 and figuring out how every piece will fit.

The Mets did a lot of their heavy lifting before the lockout, but there are still a bunch of areas that need to be shored up.

One of those areas is the infield, which we recently dove into here.

Another area is the rotation, which we just discussed here.

Then there is the bullpen, which could use a lefty and maybe one more late-inning option.

Let’s break it down…

What is already set?

As things currently stand, the Mets likely have four locks for the 2022 bullpen, which should consist of seven pitchers most of the time.

Those locks are Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and Miguel Castro.

And while there are still those who try — while ignoring facts and often their own eyes — to minimize how good Diaz has been over the last two seasons, he has been largely dominant while posting a 2.95 ERA (2.39 FIP) and 1.10 WHIP with 14.2 K/9 while allowing just five homers in 88.1 innings.

Diaz will be joined in the back end of the bullpen by Lugo, May, and Castro, who all have plus stuff and helped the Mets form a strong relief corps last season.

Sep 2, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New York Mets pitcher Miguel Castro (50) delivers in the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Sep 2, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New York Mets pitcher Miguel Castro (50) delivers in the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Gone will be Aaron Loup, which creates a clear need for a left-handed option. And aside from the unproven Thomas Szapucki, the Mets don’t have a lefty relief option currently on the 40-man roster.

New York’s right-handed relief options are much more plentiful, and there are several they could turn to to fill things out.

Internal options

The name who jumps out right away is Drew Smith, whose season ended last Aug. 14 due to shoulder inflammation.

Prior to his injury, Smith excelled, with a 2.40 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out 41 batters in 41.1 innings — often in multi-inning stints.

If healthy, Smith should be pretty close to a lock for the Opening Day bullpen.

May 12, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Drew Smith (62) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field.
May 12, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Drew Smith (62) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field.

Aside from Smith, options for the ‘pen could include Sean Reid-Foley and Jake Reed, who both got looks last season.

There’s also Adam Oller, who had a strong season in 2021 between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse and is now on the 40-man roster.

Trevor Williams could also factor in, potentially as a long-man, due in part to the fact that he’s set to earn close to $4 million via arbitration.

External options

With so many relievers now able to cross over and be effective against both right-handed batters and left-handers, along with the new three-batter rule, the need for a lefty specialist isn’t what it once was.

But with the Mets having so few lefty options on the 40-man roster, going after one could make a lot of sense.

That could mean a pursuit of a free agent like Andrew Chafin, who had a phenomenal season in 2021 for the Oakland Athletics.

The Mets also have the option of pursuing a high-end reliever via trade, and Craig Kimbrel is among those who could be available.

Oct 10, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) pitches against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in game three of the 2021 ALDS at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Oct 10, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) pitches against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in game three of the 2021 ALDS at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The White Sox picked up Kimbrel’s $16 million option for the 2022 season, but reportedly did so with an eye on potentially dealing him.

But if the Mets call the White Sox about Kimbrel, they should be doing so with a bit of trepidation since he’s one year from free agency, was brutal after being acquired by the Sox at last year’s deadline, and has been alarmingly up-and-down over the last three seasons.

So if the Mets pursue a Kimbrel deal where they would have to take on all $16 million he’s owed, they should not consider parting with even one of their top 10 prospects.

Verdict

The Mets are set up well enough in the back end of the bullpen that they can be a bit methodical here.

In an ideal world, they’ll fill one or two of the final three spots from within and go external for the other(s).

Signing Chafin and rounding things out with Smith and Williams could work. As could a deal for Kimbrel — but only if the price is right.