The Mets have important offseason questions to address this winter. None have been answered yet, but New York has reportedly made an important move this week. That move is finalizing an agreement to bring pitching coach Jeremy Hefner back for at least 2023.
This was first reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma mentioned the Mets were concerned about losing Hefner to either another MLB team or a college squad closer to his Oklahoma home. The former big-league pitcher has risen through the coaching ranks quickly. He started as a scout with the Minnesota Twins in 2017 and has been the Mets’ pitching coach since 2020.
Hefner also has a reputation for breaking down analytical information in a way that’s digestible for pitchers. Puma notes that he and manager Buck Showalter have built a solid working relationship during their first season together.
New York re-signing its pitching coach is important for a couple of reasons.
The 2023 campaign will be Jeremy Hefner’s fourth as New York’s pitching coach. The Mets had a different pitching coach in each of the three seasons prior (Dan Warthen in ’17, Dave Eiland in ’18, Eiland and Phil Reagan in ’19). Warthen did serve in this role from 2009-17, though.
Having consistency helps pitchers know what to expect and it also becomes easier to build a rapport with their coach. Plus, that trust factor comes into play when things aren’t going well and a suggestion is made.
Hefner also has deep knowledge of the Mets’ minor-league pitching talent. For an organization that’s always been rooted in solid homegrown pitching, that’s incredibly important.
Re-tooling the big-league staff
Many Mets offseason headlines are focused on adding offense. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor can’t do it all and could use some help. Outside of some tweaks, though, the lineup is mostly set. It’s the pitching staff that is wide open.
David Peterson and Tylor Megill will be back. But when looking at the Mets’ starting five at the end of the year, only Max Scherzer is guaranteed to return right now.
The bullpen is in a similar situation. Drew Smith and Joely Rodriguez are the only arbitration-eligible players who logged significant 2022 innings and will be back next year. The Mets reportedly want to prioritize re-signing Edwin Diaz and then will build out the relief corps from there. Lots of building needs to happen, as Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Adam Ottavino, and Trevor Williams are all free agents. Mid-season acquisition, Mychal Givens, has a mutual option that needs a decision.
It doesn’t matter if the Mets bring several of those players back for 2023 or fill the staff with different arms. Having a known commodity like Jeremy Hefner locked in for next year (and hopefully beyond) is another selling point for free agents. Hefner can also talk about the pitching staff’s recent success, how he likes to work, as well as what it’s like to pitch in New York as part of any recruiting efforts.
Could Hefner’s return be important to Jacob deGrom as he prepares to opt out of his contract? General manager Billy Eppler did recently say that both sides apparently know how they feel, so maybe this was part of that conversation.
Either way, making sure Hefner doesn’t leave Flushing is a good first step in what’s sure to be a critical offseason for the win-now Mets.