It may be only four games into the season but it is never too early to make some observations about the New York Mets. A 2-2 record is just fine after four games, but the Mets still have issues to work through. While most fans and media will focus on the team’s poor performance with runners in scoring position, the bigger concern may be the Mets’ bullpen.
Despite carrying eight relievers to start the season, manager Luis Rojas has shown through his actions that he only really trusts three guys: Miguel Castro, Trevor May and Edwin Diaz. Castro and May have worked the seventh and eighth innings in three of the four games that the Mets have played thus far, all games that were close. Each man had some issues, with May imploding in the eighth inning of the Mets’ Opening Day loss while Castro gave up a run in the seventh inning on Tuesday.
Even if those two stabilize alongside Diaz, who has looked sharp as the Mets’ closer since the middle of last season, that leaves just three relievers in the bullpen that Rojas feels confident in over the course of a 162-game season. The return of Seth Lugo next month will help but the usage patterns Rojas has established early on won’t be sustainable if only those four get big outs for the Mets.
Dellin Betances already landed on the injured list with a shoulder issue and Jeurys Familia has only worked in mop-up duty so far. The failure of those two to be key late-inning pieces has hurt the Mets’ bullpen depth, making it important for Sandy Alderson and Zach Scott to keep trying different options to find more arms that Rojas can trust. One guy who will get a crack soon is Trevor Hildenberger, who was added to the 40-man roster once Betances went on the IL, which should give the bullpen a different look with a sidearmer.
It is also fair to question whether or not Alderson did enough for the left side of the bullpen with only Loup as a new addition. The National League East is loaded with tough lefties such as Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman, making it problematic that the Mets don’t have a lefty who can really face off with those tough left-handed bats. This is an area the Mets could address by shifting either David Peterson or Joey Lucchesi to the bullpen once Carlos Carrasco or Noah Syndergaard rejoin the rotation, but the most likely option for improvement is via trade.
Alderson has shown the ability to make good in-season trades for relievers in the past, notably adding Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to fortify the Mets’ bullpen down the stretch in 2015. The Mets have plenty of room under the luxury tax to add a bullpen arm or two by the trade deadline, which they will need to do at least on the left side. Players already in the organization such as Tommy Hunter, Arodys Vizcaino and Drew Smith will undoubtedly get opportunities to shine at Citi Field, but if they can’t Alderson’s July workload will get heavier.
It’s clear that the Mets have enough starting pitching depth to be real contenders and their lineup is capable of being one of the best in baseball. The bullpen needs to be significantly improved to match the rest of the roster if the Mets hope to get deep into October. Relying on three relievers won’t be good enough in a division as capable as the NL East.