NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The free-agent market for outfielders is thinner than usual at the dawn of the Winter Meetings. For starting pitchers, it is practically nonexistent. But the market for late-inning relievers is robust, with closers Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon all hitting free agency at the same time.
For a Mets club seeking back-end relief help, particularly with Jeurys Familia facing a possible suspension via Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence Policy, those names might seem tempting. But general manager Sandy Alderson’s general aversion to bullpen volatility makes a marriage with any of them unlikely.
“I don’t think that we’re looking at that top end,” Alderson said on Sunday after arriving at the Winter Meetings. “With relievers … you’re always better off with a one-year deal if you can get it, but sometimes it’s not possible. That’s why it’s so important to be able to get most of your relievers out of your own organization. You have a lot more flexibility — not just in terms of length of contract, but also with the ability to move guys up and down.”
Given that philosophy, Alderson plans to fortify his bullpen through two avenues: First, he will sign one or two mid-level arms to big league contracts, filling in the gaps with Minor League deals. Then, he will bring all of them to camp, letting them compete with the Mets’ in-house relievers — Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel and the like.
That latter group may ultimately prove most intriguing. Among those who could end up in the Mets’ Opening Day bullpen are starting pitchers Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, all of whom will report to camp in a rotation battle that only one can win.
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Wheeler in particular is an unorthodox choice for the bullpen, considering he has missed two full seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the Mets are interested in his potential as a hard-throwing setup man.
“I’m just trying to think — not really outside the box, but just expansively where he might fit,” Alderson said. “There’s no reason for us to say, ‘Well, he’s got to be a starter.’ Now, he may feel that way himself. But it may be coming back after two years that he’s better off pitching out of the ‘pen.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Mets likely out on FA closers; Wheeler in ‘pen?