The Mets need a bit of bullpen help.
This season, the Mets have a 3.62 bullpen ERA, which is 12th in baseball. Certainly not bad, but a bit too close to the middle for a team hoping to compete for a title. The bullpen also has a 1.24 WHIP, which is 15th in baseball, and the pen has allowed 31 home runs, which is 19th.
So no matter what way you slice it, there is some improvement to be made.
When thinking about which relievers the Mets should trade for, we asked our friends at Reliever Recon, a successful fantasy baseball site dedicated to just relief pitchers, to share detailed 2022 stats and contract information so that we could identify targets for a potential trade.
Since the Mets have Edwin Diaz to close out games, Drew Smith emerging as a stabilizing force, Trevor May potentially returning in July, and signed Adam Ottavino this offseason, it’s unlikely the team breaks the bank for a big-name target. Rather, we expect the Mets to look for an affordable 7th or 8th inning option that can act as a bridge to Diaz without having to give up too talented of a prospect.
So who might that be?
Potential Relief Pitcher Trade Targets
Long Shot Options
Scott Barlow (Royals): We just said the Mets are unlikely to make a big splash at reliever, which is what makes Barlow a longshot. The right-hander is part of a committee closing out games in Kansas City and currently sports a 2.22 ERA, with nine saves and a 16.8% strikeout minus walk ratio (K-BB%). Considering the league average K-BB% is 14.2%, that’s fairly solid. Barlow is on an expiring contract, but he figures to be a trade option for teams who are willing to pay for a new 9th inning man, which will make his asking price high. Perhaps too high for the Mets.
Daniel Bard (Colorado): Bard is a perfect option for the Mets because he has closing experience but also doesn’t have any pronounces splits when it comes to hitter-handedness. Bard has also been exceptional this year, pitching to a 1.88 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, while registering a 19.1% K-BB% and recording 15 saves. The only issue is that he has stated that he wants to remain in Colorado since the organization took a shot on him back in 2020 after he had been out of the majors for seven years. If Colorado can be assured Bard would re-sign with them, it would make it less likely that he leaves.
More Likely Options
David Robertson (Chicago Cubs): Most people will remember Robertson from his seven seasons with the Yankees from 2008-2014. Robertson parlayed his 2014 closers gig into two years as a closer for the White Sox before the Yankees brought him back. Then injuries struck. Robertson was only able to throw 6.2 innings for Philadelphia in 2019 and then 12 innings coming off injuries for Tampa in 2021.
However, he has been really solid for the Cubs this season. In 29 innings, Robertson has a 1.86 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 22.4% K-BB%. He also boasts a 14.2% swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) while the league average is just 11.7%. He bounced back from a mediocre May to compile a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 June innings and is allowing just a .162 batting average with men on base this season, which makes him an ideal high leverage arm. He just may require a few solid prospects in return given his success as a closer this year.
Mychal Givens (Chicago Cubs): Robertson’s teammate in Chicago, Givens may come cheaper since he is not currently closing. However, the 32-year-old does have experience at the end of games, seeing time as a closer in Baltimore in both 2018 and 2019.
So far this season, Givens has a mediocre 3.81 ERA and 1.41 WHIP but also possesses a well-above-average 17.6% K-BB%. Most of his mediocre ratios can also be attributed to one or two poor outings. In fact, since May 1st, Givens has only allowed runs in four of his 20 total appearances. It’s just that four of them came while getting no outs in a June 14th game against the Padres.
In high leverage situations this year, Givens is holding batters to a .188 batting average and has eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings with runners in scoring position, so he can be an asset in tough late-game situations but won’t cost what some of these other names will.
Michael Fulmer (Detroit Tigers): Ah, a familiar face. Michael Fulmer was once an up-and-coming starting pitcher in the Mets organization before being traded by the team in 2015 as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal. After a few elbow injuries, Fulmer has moved to the bullpen, where he has flourished in Detroit.
So far this season, Fulmer has a 2.00 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 14.2% K-BB%, and 11.8% SwStr%, which makes him an above-average big league reliever in pretty much every facet. He has also allowed only one home run all season, which would be welcome in the Mets’ bullpen.
While the Tigers have Gregory Soto as their closer, Fulmer does often work in high leverage situations at the end of games and has done well there. He allows just a .158 batting average with men in scoring position and has struck out nine batters in 9.2 innings that are categorized as high leverage situations.
It would be a great story to bring Fulmer back to Flushing, but he is also a good relief pitcher against both righties and lefties, which could make him an ideal trade target since he’s a free agent next year, and the Tigers will be looking to get something for him.
Matt Moore (Texas Rangers): Another former starter that has re-invented himself as a relief pitcher, Matt Moore has been electric in Texas this season. The left-hander has a 2.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 14.4% K-BB%, and 13.1% SwStr%.
He has also been good against both righties and lefties, with righties hitting just .183 with a .232 slugging percentage against. While lefties have a few more hits (hitting .216 off of Moore), he has gotten way more strikeouts against left-handed hitters, notching a 19.5% K-BB%.
The issue currently is that Moore hasn’t been as good with runners in scoring position. While he has only pitched 5.2 innings in such a situation, he has a .304 batting average against. However, with the Mets only having Joely Rodriguez and Chasen Shreve as left-handed options out of the pen, another lefty could be exactly what the team needs.
Andrew Chafin (Detroit Tigers): Which is why Andrew Chafin could be their top target. The Mets went after Chafin in free agency before he opted to sign with Detroit. Chafin is signed for $6.5 million for next season, which means the Mets would get another year of control. While that might up the price of a trade, it would also be a solid addition to the Mets bullpen.
The 32-year-old has been a good MLB reliever for years, registering a 3.30 career ERA, which includes a 6.52 mark during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. This year, Chafin has a 3.26 ERA but ERA estimators suggest he is pitching better than that. His xERA (expected ERA) is 2.46, while his SIERA (Skill-interactive Earned Run Average) is 2.34.
Chafin also has a 1.09 WHIP, a ridiculous 25% K-BB%, and 14.9% SwStr%. All of which means that he misses bats at an elite rate.
You’re getting Chafin because of the way he neutralizes lefties. Righties are hitting .275 against him this year, but with just a .375 slugging percentage and one home run allowed, so the damage has been minimal. Lefties are hitting just .182 with a .242 slugging percentage, and 31.6% strikeout rate.
However, Chafin has also been good in high leverage, holding hitters to just a .182 batting average. He’s also limited hitters to a .238 average with runners in scoring position, so he’s shown that he can rise to the occasion.
While more names will likely emerge as the trade deadline gets closer, it would be safe to assume that the Mets are going to make one solid but not flashy bullpen addition, while also chasing a big-name starting pitcher.
We’ll keep you up to date on all the latest rumors here, so make sure you visit amNY Sports for all Mets trade discussions.