ATLANTA -- For all but two and a half months of his decade-long Major League career, Jeurys Familia has been a Met. He came to the organization as a 17-year-old international signing in 2007. He rose through the Minor League system as a heralded prospect alongside Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. He spent half a season in Oakland before becoming a free agent for the first time in 2018, then he immediately re-signed with the Mets on a three-year, $30 million deal.
Now, with that contract set to expire, Familia is about to reach free agency for a second time. The longtime stalwart of New York’s bullpen doesn’t know what the future holds, except that he would relish continuing his career in Flushing.
“New York is everything for me,” Familia said. “If I go tomorrow and sign with another team, I’m never going to forget New York. This is the team that gave me the opportunity to see my dream come [true]. I have so much love for everything in New York. It’s my home.”
Although Familia has struggled to replicate his early-career success, which peaked with a 2.20 ERA and 94 saves from 2015-16, he managed to recover from a disastrous 2019 by producing a 3.81 ERA over the next two seasons. This year, he raised his strikeout rate to a career-high 10.8 per nine innings, while slicing his walk rate from 6.4 to 4.2. Home runs have been a problem for Familia, who says he struggled with his slider command early in the year. But he has nonetheless proven durable and effective as a setup man for Edwin Díaz.
“For me, it’s not the season I was looking for, honestly,” Familia said. “But I feel great. Between last year and this year, I’m doing a better job.”
A week shy of his 32nd birthday, Familia still throws his signature sinker in the upper 90s, which is always appealing to teams on the free-agent market. He keeps a home year-round in northern New Jersey, which makes the Mets an attractive destination.
But Familia also understands that no matter his desires, his time in New York could be coming to an end. Asked if he thinks he might return, Familia shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know.”
Who’s on first?
If the designated hitter does return to the National League next year, Pete Alonso doesn’t see himself as a fit for the job.
“Not at all,” Alonso said. “I think I’m a really good first baseman with potential to win a Gold Glove, and I think I would be selling myself short to label myself as a [DH].”
Alonso has improved his Outs Above Average total every year since debuting with a -6 figure in 2019. The following year, Alonso finished with -5 OAA. This year, he is in the black for the first time, with +1 OAA.
While Dominic Smith also remains under team control and has historically been a better defender at first base, Alonso’s stronger offensive track record makes him a better fit at the position in future seasons.
The fate of the DH will be decided in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations this winter.
“If I need to DH maybe one day or if someone needs to rotate in, that’s fine,” Alonso said. “But I’m a first baseman. I don’t think I’ll ever think of myself as a DH. And I think that as I continue to progress, I’m going to be able to win not just one Gold Glove, I feel like I’m going to win multiple in my career. And this is only my third year. I’m just going to continue getting better.”
Return of the fireman?
Although Mets reliever Seth Lugo has enjoyed reasonable success since returning from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow, his 3.50 ERA remains inflated from the 2.68 mark he posted from 2018-19. Looking back, Lugo said, that operation prevented him from feeling comfortable with his mechanics until the past couple of weeks.
Now that he’s back to feeling normal, Lugo hopes continued success will allow him to return to his old multi-inning “fireman” role next year. The right-hander has submitted just six relief outings of four-plus outs this season, compared to 53 from 2018-19. Last summer, Lugo spent significant time working as a starting pitcher.
“I’d like to get back to it,” he said. “I’ve been a starter my whole life, and then the last few years being in the ‘pen, throwing multiple innings feels more natural to me.”
Noah Syndergaard will make his second and final start in a one-inning outing Sunday to close out the season, as he looks to enter the offseason -- and potentially free agency -- strong coming off March 2020 Tommy John surgery.
The Mets have not announced who will follow Syndergaard to the mound. Robert Gsellman, who has not pitched since tearing his right lat in June, is one possibility in what could become a bullpen game.
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish
Alonso will open his offseason with a charitable endeavor, taking an auction winner out for a two-day fishing trip to benefit the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Proceeds will go to the TRCP and Alonso’s foundation, Homers for Heroes.
“We’re going to try and go out there and catch some fish, have a good time in the offseason,” Alonso said, “and have two fun days on the water.”
More details are available here.