Stay or Go: Should Mets re-sign Trevor May?

Trevor May two panel stay or go treated art 2022
Trevor May two panel stay or go treated art 2022

When the Mets signed Trevor May in December of 2020, it was the first relatively big move by the baseball operations team after Steve Cohen took over as the new owner.

That deal, which was for two years and $15.5 million, was one the Mets believed would pay big dividends following a 2020 season for May when he struck out a career-high 14.7 batters per nine over 24 appearances during the COVID-shortened 60-game season for the Minnesota Twins.

And May wasn't signed after being a one-year wonder.

From 2018 to 2020 with the Twins, he had a 3.19 ERA (3.56 FIP) and 1.08 WHIP while striking out 153 batters in 113 innings over 113 appearances. The home run ball was a bit of an issue for May with Minnesota, but the stuff -- including a fastball that sat around 96 mph to go along with a slider and changeup -- was legit.

The Mets' hope was that May would help create a sturdy bridge to closer Edwin Diaz. And while he was pretty solid in 2021, May's penchant for giving up home runs (he allowed 10 in 62.2 innings) hurt.

Then came the 2022 season, when May started off poorly, allowing eight runs on 13 hits over his first 8.1 innings over eight appearances, resulting in his ERA on May 2 being an unsightly 8.64.

Apr 19, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Trevor May (65) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.
Apr 19, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Trevor May (65) delivers a pitch during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

It was clear, however, that something was not quite right with May as he struggled early in the season while pitching through what was seen at the time as a minor triceps issue. But it wasn't minor. And after his appearance on May 2, May landed on the IL due to the injury and didn't return until Aug. 3.

The above is what makes May's 2022 so difficult to judge, which is especially tricky since he's about to hit free agency.

So, should the Mets bring him back?

WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE TO LET MAY GO

May's overall numbers from 2022 are skewed by his early-season struggles, but they weren't pretty.

His ERA of 5.04 was the worst he had since posting a 7.88 ERA as a rookie in 2014. May also struck out fewer batters than he had since 2015 -- a still respectable 10.8 per 9, but down from 11.9 in 2021 and 14.7 in 2020.

There is also the injury situation to consider.

May's injury was to his triceps, and he was fine after returning following a long road back. So it stands to reason that since his injury wasn't severe (we're not talking about a shoulder or elbow issue here) that he shouldn't be at a higher risk than other relievers of missing time in 2023.

But one thing May's injury did was limit his big league innings to 25.0, which could have an impact on the kind of workload he's able to handle next season after tossing 62.2 innings in 2021 and only 23.1 during the shortened season in 2020 (through no fault of his own).

Trevor May
Trevor May

There's also a case to be made that the Mets would be better off finding the next May instead of the one they had for the last two years who is about to enter his age-33 season.

Who could that be?

Depending on whether the Mets retain Diaz and how active they are in the free agent relief market, targeting someone like Robert Suarez (who is about two years younger than May) could make lots of sense.

WHY IT COULD MAKE SENSE TO KEEP MAY

When he's on, he's really good. And his stuff is explosive.

During the 2021 season, the Mets had three relievers whose stuff could be absolutely lockdown at times -- Diaz, May, and Miguel Castro. And there were games where May was close to unhittable.

Some games where May's dominance was on display? April 28 against the Boston Red Sox, June 16 against the Chicago Cubs, and Aug. 8 against the Philadelphia Phillies. In all of those appearances, May fired perfect innings while striking out the side.

May was also very good in 2022 after returning from his injury, with a 3.24 ERA (2.75 FIP) in 16.2 innings while striking out 25.

Sep 18, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Trevor May (65) reacts to striking out the last Pittsburgh Pirate batter for the victory at Citi Field.
Sep 18, 2022; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets pitcher Trevor May (65) reacts to striking out the last Pittsburgh Pirate batter for the victory at Citi Field.

Over his final 11 appearances of the season -- a span of 9.2 innings from Aug. 22 to Oct. 5 (May missed some time while on the COVID IL) -- he allowed just two runs while pitching to a 1.86 ERA (1.04 FIP) as he held opposing batters to a .171/.256/.229 triple slash.

A deeper dive into the numbers shows that May's slider and changeup were especially effective this past season, while hitters feasted on his four-seam fastball -- hitting .327 with a .582 slugging percentage against it.

May's four-seamer was a weapon in 2021, though, when hitters hit just. 217 with a .371 slugging percentage against it.

VERDICT

As is the case with fellow pending free agents Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino, the Mets should be open to bringing May back -- but only to a point.

If May is seeking a deal that pays him close to the average annual value he got on his just-completed two-year deal, or a deal for more than one year, the Mets should move on.

If not, bringing back May -- and his at-times electric stuff -- would be a low-risk, high-reward move.