It’s another low-cost bullpen flier for a New York team that has also brought in Austin Adams and Michael Tonkin this offseason. López had a rough 2023 campaign, allowing a 5.95 ERA in 59 innings. He split the year between a trio of clubs. The righty opened the year with the Twins, was flipped to the Marlins for Dylan Floro in a swap of struggling relievers, then landed with the Orioles on waivers.
The 30-year-old (31 in February) didn’t find much success at any of those stops. He was tagged for more than five earned runs per nine with all three teams. López struggled with home runs in Minnesota and Baltimore and posted generally lackluster strikeout and walk numbers. His strikeout rate rebounded in his 12-inning stint with the O’s but sat below 18% in Minnesota and Miami.
Overall, López concluded the 2023 campaign with a modest 18.4% strikeout percentage. His swinging strike rate sat at only 9.3%. The Puerto Rico native had also struggled late in the 2022 campaign after being traded from Baltimore to Minnesota. Since that deadline deal, he carries a 5.54 ERA through 81 2/3 innings.
That makes it moderately surprising that López secured a major league contract. The Mets still clearly remain intrigued by the form he showed in the first half of the ’22 campaign. He had tossed 48 1/3 frames of 1.68 ERA ball with a near-28% strikeout rate for the Orioles before being traded. López saved 19 games in that time and earned an All-Star nod.
While his production has plummeted in recent years, his velocity has not. He averaged 96.8 MPH on his sinker last season and just above 84 MPH on his breaking ball. The sinker velocity is down only slightly from the 97.7 MPH he’d brandished in 2022; his curveball speed is exactly the same. The Mets will try to harness that stuff and find better results than López has managed over the past 18 months.
With over five years of MLB service, López can’t be optioned to the minor leagues. He’ll almost certainly get a spot in the season-opening middle relief corps. The Mets are in the third tier of luxury tax penalization and will pay the tax for the third straight season in 2024. As a result, they’re taxed at a 95% rate. The total cost amounts to a $3.9MM roll of the dice.