Mets Bullpen Battle: Which relief pitchers secure final roster spots?

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Jacob Resnick
·4 min read
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Robert Gsellman fires a pitch wearing green hat at spring training, close crop
Robert Gsellman fires a pitch wearing green hat at spring training, close crop

As it stands, the Mets have six relief pitchers who don’t really need to worry about their chances of making the Opening Day roster.

The team will hope that the hard-throwing Edwin Diaz and Miguel Castro, offseason additions Trevor May and Aaron Loup, and veterans Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances will form the core of a group that struggled to maintain consistency throughout the 2020 season.

(Betances hasn’t done much this spring to prove his spot is locked down, but Luis Rojas said Wednesday, "At this point, you’ve got to say he’s part of our bullpen.”)

That leaves room for two more pitchers on a 26-man roster, and with the clock ticking, no real indication of who has the inside track for the jobs. Let’s break down the options.

Also competing for the fifth starter job

Like the bullpen, the majority of the Mets’ starting rotation is set. After Carlos Carrasco’s injury, David Peterson slid up to the fourth starter role and opened the fifth spot up to a competition.

Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto have both made excellent cases for the job, but the Mets optioned Yamamoto to Triple-A Syracuse after Wednesday's game, paving the way for Lucchesi to be the fifth starter.

The fact that both have accessible minor league options made the initial choice less important, though Lucchesi has allowed fewer hits and struck out more batters in his Grapefruit League work.

Relievers on the 40-man roster

Robert Gsellman hasn’t been optioned to the minors since late in the 2017 season, but the Mets still have the ability to send him down.

A poor 2020 has him on the bubble, but he’ll likely be needed at points throughout 2021.

The out-of-options Jacob Barnes does not have the same roster flexibility. The fact that he was both brought into the organization this offseason and would have to be exposed to waivers in order to be sent to the minors increases his chances of coming north with the team.

After a rough spring debut, Barnes has tossed four scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. A reliable arm for the Brewers from 2016-2018, he’s been working closely with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner on using advanced data to get back to that success.

“We got on to the analytics of my stuff, and [Hefner] started saying some things, and I was like, ‘Wait, what?’” Barnes told Tim Britton of the Athletic. “I was absolutely confused because prior to coming over here, I was never given that knowledge or that information to be able to use. So obviously it caught my interest quick.”

If the Mets want another left-hander to supplement Loup, Stephen Tarpley is the only southpaw on the 40-man roster still in camp.

Like Barnes, Tarpley was added on a waiver claim this offseason. Unlike Barnes, Tarpley has minor league options, so his Opening Day roster assignment is far from permanent.

Drew Smith would have a good shot at winning a job if he was healthy, but shoulder soreness is likely to take him out of the running.

Non-roster invitees still in camp

The Mets currently have a full 40-man roster, meaning any additions would require a corresponding move. Placing Jose Martinez on the 60-day injured list would open one spot, for example.

That’s the route they’ll need to take if any of Mike Montgomery, Tommy Hunter, or Jerry Blevins win an Opening Day job. A couple of factors are at play that will influence these decisions.

Montgomery has an opt-out clause in his contract that can be exercised if he isn’t added to the roster by this Sunday. The veteran left-hander has not allowed a run with seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings this spring and could very well find himself on the roster.

Montgomery also has significant major league starting experience and could work in multiple roles should he make the team.

Hunter, as a major league free agent who signed a minor league contract this offseason, is eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus if he isn’t added to the major league roster or released by Saturday. If the Mets choose to pay the bonus, Hunter will be able to request his release on June 1.

Hunter’s fastball averaged 96-97 mph at its peak from 2013-2018, but he’s down to 93 mph this spring. He’s walked four and only struck out three in five appearances, so it’s hard to envision him earning a roster spot.

Blevins has familiarity with Sandy Alderson and was dominant against lefties in 2019. Not being on the 40-man roster hurts his chances of making the team from the start, as does the three-batter rule and the fact that he did not pitch in 2020.

Arodys Vizcaino is still technically in camp but he is dealing with elbow soreness, according to the team.