The Mets are finalizing a contract extension with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Assuming the deal is completed, it’ll keep the 36-year-old in the role for at least a fourth season.
A former Mets pitcher, Hefner has quickly risen through the coaching ranks after wrapping up his playing career following the 2016 season. Initially hired as a scout by the Twins heading into 2017, he made the jump to bullpen coach by 2019. He spent just one year working in that capacity for Minnesota before returning to his former big league organization as pitching coach over the 2019-20 offseason.
That hiring was overseen by former GM Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Luis Rojas, and the Mets overhauled both their front office and coaching staff not long after. Van Wagenen was dismissed following the 2020 season, while Rojas was fired and replaced by Buck Showalter last winter. Despite the leadership turnover, the Mets have remained steadfast in their belief in Hefner. He retained his position throughout the duration of his initial two-year guarantee, and the Mets exercised an option on his services for 2022 last October.
Puma writes that the Mets were concerned Hefner could both draw interest from other big league clubs and college programs this offseason. The notion of an MLB pitching coach leaving to take a collegiate coaching position may surprise some onlookers, but the Twins were dealt a midseason blow this summer when pitching coach Wes Johnson resigned to take the same role with LSU. Puma suggests that a chance to return closer to his native Oklahoma could’ve been appealing to Hefner, but he and the New York organization are apparently on the verge of continuing their relationship.
The Mets have been an above-average pitching team since Hefner took over, ranking 11th in cumulative ERA (3.93) and second in strikeout rate (25.7%) since the start of the 2020 campaign. No team topped New York’s 26.3% strikeout percentage this past season, while only the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees allowed fewer runs. As with any coach, Hefner isn’t solely responsible for the club’s results. He’s certainly had the fortune of working with a number of talented pitchers — Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Edwin Díaz among them. Yet it’s also clear Hefner’s a respected pitching mind within the industry, and it’s no surprise the Mets prioritized keeping him around given the team’s success on the mound.
Puma adds that most of Showalter’s staff is expected to return in 2023, although he suggests there could be a few changes. Showalter himself is certain to be back after leading the club to 101 wins during the first season of a reported three-year contract.