Heading into the offseason, the New York Mets were set to pay Anthony Swarzak, 33, $8.5 million to fulfill an unspecified — then or ever — role in the team’s bullpen in 2019 alongside Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, a select couple of young arms (let’s say, Drew Smith and Daniel Zamora), and whomever else general manager Brodie Van Wagenen eventually brought in to plug the remaining gaps. Oh, how things have changed.
The Mets traded for their new closer, Edwin Diaz, 24, on Dec. 3, in the deal that sent Swarzak, Jay Bruce, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista to Seattle in exchange for the 24-year-old right-hander and second baseman Robinson Cano.
After having his sights reportedly set on left-hander Andrew Miller throughout Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Las Vegas this week, Van Wagenen came home from the desert with a different, yet overwhelmingly familiar, new toy in former Mets closer, Jeurys Familia.
Over seven seasons in New York, Familia pitched to a 2.66 earned-run average, 2.93 fielding independent pitching rating, 1.211 WHIP, 9.2 strikeouts and 3.6 walks per nine innings, and a 143 ERA+ rating over 313 appearances, all but one in relief (321.1 innings).
Familia, 29, agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal early Thursday morning, bringing the right-hander back to the organization who signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic after being traded to Oakland last season (for minor league third baseman Will Toffey, right-handed reliever Bobby Wahl, and international bonus pool money.
Prior to the deal, Familia was having a resurgent year after a lackluster, injury-filled 2017 campaign. Through his first 40 appearances of the year, he owned a 2.88 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 1.230 WHIP, and 3.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Over his thirty appearances with the Athletics after the trade (31.1 innings), Familia pitched very well, though his numbers weren’t exactly gleaming — specifically the bloated (for him) 3.45 ERA he carried through the end of the season.
Diaz and Familia, even on paper, give the Mets one of the more formidable back-end-of-the-bullpen pairings in all of baseball. The combination of two power pitchers with ungodly off-speed stuff theoretically closing out games after the seventh inning in Flushing is an exciting notion.
Familia isn’t all that far removed from his magnificent stretch over the 2015 and 2016 seasons when he pitched to a 2.20 ERA, 2.56 FIP, with 1.105 WHIP, 3.40 strikeouts-to-walks, and a 178 ERA+ rating. Oh, and he also led all of baseball in saves in 2016 with 51 closeouts.
Considering Joe Kelly — a terrific reliever but simply not on the level of Jeurys Familia — just got $25 million over three years from the Dodgers and Spotrac has Cody Allen ($13.8 million) and Craig Kimbrel‘s ($16.5 million) value on the open market pegged at nearly a third higher than the money Familia got, I’d say Van Wagenen found himself a fantastic deal.
If he decides to turn the New York Mets relief corps into arguably one of the more elite staffs in the National League by adding Andrew Miller, all the better. But with Familia handing the ball off to Edwin Diaz next season, there’s no question this team is in a better position than they were — and have been in the bullpen — in quite some time.