The New York Mets’ heavy lifting from the MLB offseason is over, but that doesn’t mean their shopping spree is complete. After signing Tommy Pham to be their fourth outfielder and a right-handed DH option this past week, the Mets appear to have one more move in them before spring training starts in three weeks.
They need one more relief pitcher. Preferably a left-hander. Preferably a veteran.
Preferably Andrew Chafin.
Of course, the Mets have already put a lot of resources into their bullpen this winter. Closer Edwin Diaz signed a five-year, $102 million contract to remain in New York. Set-up man Adam Ottavino was brought back for $7.25 million. David Robertson signed a one-year, $10 million deal. Brooks Raley was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays and counts $5.75 million against the salary cap.
Adam Ottavino joins @gappleSNY to discuss coming back to pitch in New York, playing for Steve Cohen, his slider, and getting to watch Edwin Díaz pitch: https://t.co/TlV4chnxVQ pic.twitter.com/Owf5phCivf
— SNY (@SNYtv) January 19, 2023
The Mets also have John Curtiss and Joey Lucchesi (who could also be a starter) returning from Tommy John surgery. Drew Smith will likely earn a spot in the bullpen again. Zach Greene was selected in the Rule-5 Draft coming off an excellent season at Triple-A in the New York Yankees organization. Swingman Elieser Hernandez and veteran Jeff Brigham were picked up in a trade with the Florida Marlins. Stephen Ridings and Taylor Saucedo are in the mix, too.
And don’t forget Tylor Megill and David Peterson, starters who could be used as long relievers.
So, there seems to be quite a bit of depth with the Mets relief corps. But these are Steve Cohen’s Mets. They’re already World Series contenders and still took a big swing trying to add Carlos Correa. So, expect them to make a run at one more reliever.
Let’s look at the top remaining options to fill out the Mets bullpen in 2023.
3. Brad Hand, LHP, Phillies
How about a reunion with Hand? He’s a solid veteran lefthander, with experience pitching for the Mets, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East the past two seasons.
Hand was good for 0.9 WAR out of Philadelphia’s pen in 2022. The soon-to-be 33-year-old allowed two home runs in 45 innings and pitched to a 2.80 ERA. He did walk 4.6 batters per nine innings and his strikeouts dropped to 7.6. He also dealt with elbow tendinitis.
If there is to be reunion here, figure the Mets would want a one-year deal with Hand, who made $6 million last season.
2. Zack Britton, LHP, Yankees
If not Chafin, then who? Is there another fit for the Mets? Or are they better off just going with who they have in the bullpen and perhaps seeking an upgrade again before the MLB Trade deadline?
Well, one option is Britton. And it might be a less expensive option, too, since the 35-year-old is coming off Tommy John surgery. Of course, that also raises concern about what Britton would offer the Mets.
Zack Britton follows with a perfect fifth inning with 2⃣Ks. #RepBX pic.twitter.com/RwKjdIwSfE
— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) September 11, 2022
It’d be a risk signing Britton. But at a discounted price, he’s the most intriguing option remaining on the market after Chafin.
That Britton had some of his best seasons pitching for Buck Showalter with the Baltimore Orioles makes a reunion with the current Mets skipper plausible. Britton is no longer the same pitcher who led MLB with 47 saves for Showalter’s Orioles in 2016, but he was very good from 2018-20 with the Yankees before elbow issues flared up in 2021.
April will mark 19 months since Britton’s surgery. He did make three appearances with the Yankees last September. So, the hope is he’s in a good place physically this season.
1. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Tigers
The Mets have chased Chafin before and come up empty. He’ll be 33 this season but remains one of the better lefty relievers in the game. While the Mets may want to sign him for a season or two, Chafin likely is seeking at least a two-year deal, maybe longer. He opted out of the final season of his two-year, $13 million deal with the Detroit Tigers, so he clearly sees his value on the rise.
Terms and dollars aside, adding Chafin would give the Mets a terrific, veteran group to close out games. With Diaz asthe anchor, they could mix and match for the sixth, seventh and eighth innings with lefties Chafin and Raley and righties Robertson, Ottavino and Smith.
Andrew Chafin sits 'em down (literally). pic.twitter.com/BV2Zfoy5Rm
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) May 4, 2022
Having that back end of the bullpen would relieve stress on veteran starters Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, possibly keeping them more fresh late in the season and for the postseason. And it would help Kodai Senga manage his innings workload, which will change from his years pitching once per week in Japan.
Chafin struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings over 64 games and 57.1 innings last season with the Tigers. He keeps the ball in the park, allowing 0.6 home runs per nine in his career, and has been exceptionally healthy and consistent since his first MLB season in 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Signing Chafin would be the exclamation point on an aggressive and positive offseason for the Mets.