We’ve gone over how the five worst offenses and rotations of last season now look with the offseason nearing completion. We’ll do the same here with the quintet of bullpens that had the most difficulty preventing runs in 2019.
Judging a bullpen just by ERA is an admittedly crude method, though each of the relief units in question here also posted subpar fielding-independent metrics. The bottom line is that they struggled. Let’s see how they stack up now…
Baltimore Orioles (5.79 ERA/5.38 FIP; current depth chart)
- It's no surprise to see the Orioles at the bottom, considering the rebuilding outfit’s myriad difficulties last season. The Orioles didn’t get particularly impressive production from any of their relievers. Even their No. 1 option, Mychal Givens, had trouble at times, though he did strike out better than 12 batters per nine. Givens is on track to open the season with the Orioles, but he could certainly be an in-season trade candidate. If they move him, it would further weaken a bullpen that hasn’t added anyone of note this offseason.
Washington Nationals (5.68 ERA/4.94 FIP; current depth chart)
- The Nationals proved last season that you can have a bottom-of-the-barrel bullpen from a statistical standpoint and still win the World Series. However, general manager Mike Rizzo’s in-season tinkering with the group proved effective, especially the acquisition of flamethrowing closer Daniel Hudson at the trade deadline. Hudson remains in the fold, re-signing in free agency for two years and $11M. In an even bigger move, the Nationals signed Will Harris — a former Astro whom they upended in the Fall Classic — to a three-year, $24M pact. With those two and the returning Sean Doolittle, Washington appears to be in nice shape late in games, but it’ll need more from Hunter Strickland, Roenis Elias, Wander Suero and Tanner Rainey.
Colorado Rockies (5.18 ERA/5.12 FIP; current depth chart)
- There were few oft-used bright spots last season in Colorado’s bullpen, which didn’t get much from anyone but Scott Oberg and Carlos Estevez. The good news is that it’s hard to imagine Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee pitching much worse in 2020 than they did last season. Even if they do, they’re all entering the final guaranteed season of their onerous contracts, so they shouldn’t be the Rockies’ problem for much longer. In the meantime, the Rockies are going to need bounce-back efforts from them because they haven’t meaningfully addressed their late-game setup this offseason.
Kansas City Royals (5.07 ERA/4.55 FIP; current depth chart)
- Kansas City’s another team that has been quiet in the past few months, despite its less-than-stellar output a year ago. There are a couple bullpen trade candidates on hand in Ian Kennedy and Tim Hill, arguably the Royals’ two best relievers, but nothing has materialized on those fronts thus far. Kennedy was terrific last season in his first year as a reliever, though the fact that he’s due $16.5M in 2020 has likely scared off interested teams.
New York Mets (4.99 ERA/4.71 FIP; current depth chart)
- The Mets were extremely busy in trying to repair their bullpen last offseason, when they traded for ex-Mariners star Edwin Diaz and signed Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson. The latter pitched well during an injury-shortened campaign, but Diaz and Familia fell off a cliff, which is why the Mets are on this list a year later. At least in Diaz’s case, though, it would be reasonable to expect a much better performance in 2020. He struck out over 15 batters per nine and maintained his 97 mph velocity last year, after all, and isn’t going to surrender home runs on 27 percent of fly balls again this season. Regardless of how he does, the Mets have added some notable support to their relief unit in the past several weeks. They signed former Yankee Dellin Betances, one of the elite relievers in recent memory (albeit one coming off an injury-ruined year), as well as the accomplished Brad Brach. They also have the newly signed Michael Wacha as a potential long relief option, not to mention holdovers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.