If the Mets are going to retain any of their top free agents, they will undoubtedly have to shell out plenty of money.
But they may also have to pay a big price to bolster one of their biggest needs: the bullpen.
The Mets sparked the relief market last week, when they re-signed closer Edwin Diaz to a five-year, $102 million deal.
Since then, teams have been paying a hefty sum to add relievers — even those without sustained track records of success — in what is a relatively thin free-agent reliever market. The Astros brought back Rafael Montero on a three-year, $34.5 million deal; the Padres re-signed Robert Suarez on a five-year, $46 million contract; and the Blue Jays on Wednesday traded All-Star outfielder Teoscar Hernandez (who has one year left on his contract) to the Mariners for standout reliever Erik Swanson (three years left) and a pitching prospect.
The early results are not exactly favorable for the Mets, whose only sure bullpen pitchers for 2023 at the moment are Diaz and Drew Smith. The rest of the regular relievers from their 2022 bullpen — Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Joely Rodriguez, Trevor Williams, Mychal Givens and Tommy Hunter — are free agents.
Even if the Mets are interested in bringing back any of those relievers, they all likely will be in for raises — especially Ottavino, who pitched well this season on a one-year, $4 million contract.
Those potential departures will leave the Mets having to largely rebuild their bullpen for next season. They took a flier on former Yankees reliever Stephen Ridings on Tuesday, claiming him off waivers, after doing the same with former Blue Jays lefty Tyler Saucedo earlier this month.
But the Mets will still have to dip back into the free-agent market for more bullpen help, which could come at a cost.
The top of the market is headlined by closer Kenley Jansen, who will almost certainly command the highest average annual value of any reliever left, despite being 35. Behind him are a host of former closers, including Craig Kimbrel, Zack Britton, Corey Knebel, Taylor Rogers, David Robertson and Brad Boxberger, who could be options as setup men for Diaz.
Other high-leverage relievers who could be of interest, depending on the price tag, include lefty Andrew Chafin, former Mets prospect Michael Fulmer and veteran righty Chris Martin.