One of the first moves New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made once he took the reins to the baseball operations side of the organization this offseason was reconstructing the team’s relief corps.
Along with leading the majors with 57 saves in 2018, the 24-year-old right-hander with an absolutely devastating array of pitches owned a 1.96 earned-run average, 1.61 fielding independent pitching rating, 0.791 WHIP, and an eye-opening 7.29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Adding former Met Jeurys Familia on an economically-friendly three-year, $30 million deal to shore up any-and-all deficiencies in this team’s bullpen only solidified the foundation of the group to a greater extent.
“I have seen [Diaz] pitch in the [World Baseball Classic in 2017], and you can tell he was scaring hitters, so it was fun to watch,” Lugo said. “When Edwin and [Familia] come in to pitch, I am going to be real excited to watch them […].”
As for Lugo’s desire to once again start games, it appears the right-hander with more RPMs in his breaking stuff than a Formula One Ferrari is content in his current role.
“I kind of feel the same way I did last year — just happy to be playing,” Lugo told the Post. “It was kind of exciting not knowing if I was going to be starting or out there in the bullpen.”
Despite Lugo’s dominance as a reliever (2.38 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 3.28 strikeouts-to-walks in 98.1 innings as a reliever compared to 4.06 ERA, 1.307 WHIP, 3.07 strikeouts-to-walks in 168.1 innings as a starter), the team reportedly has the 29-year-old training this offseason as a starting pitcher; presumably in order to stretch him out or plug him into the rotation if the need arises.
The added dynamic that Diaz and Familia bring to a Mets’ bullpen that already includes a healthy dose of solid, effective pitchers gives this Mets team a characteristic they’ve only found in spurts over the last few seasons — depth.
Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, a presumable combination of newcomers Luis Avilan and Hector Santiago, Rule Five-pickup Kyle Dowdy, and a few young arms from the team’s stable of quality relievers in Tim Peterson, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora, Tyler Bashlor, and a few others, give this team a capable assembly line of reinforcements, all ready at a moments notice.
Compared to last year’s relief corps that included now-jettisoned hurlers such as Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Bobby Wahl, Gerson Bautista, and Buddy Baumann, to name a few, this 2019 incarnation of the Mets’ bullpen is already light-years ahead.
Whether this group is what Brodie Van Wagenen has in mind as the collection of arms he’s ready to head into the season with hasn’t been determined just yet.
And with a number of very good relief pitchers still available on the open market in Justin Wilson, Josh Tomlin, Ryan Madson, Tony Sipp, or even old friends Jerry Blevins or Oliver Perez, all with their prices (presumably) only dropping from here on out, there could be even more for Lugo to look forward to this season.