For months, the Mets have made move after move with an eye toward improving both their bullpen's effectiveness and depth. The club acquired former Marlins closer AJ Ramos and a cadre of young high-upside arms in a flurry of trades last summer. They also signed free agent Anthony Swarzak this offseason.
Mixed with the team's emerging philosophy toward limiting its starters, the strategy behind these moves becomes clear -- to create a formidable stable of relievers for games increasingly decided in the middle and late innings.
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Here's what that unit looks like right now.
BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Jeurys Familia, RHP
AJ Ramos, RHP
Anthony Swarzak, RHP
Jerry Blevins, LHP
Paul Sewald, RHP
Hansel Robles, RHP
Rafael Montero, RHP
Seth Lugo, RHP
In the right-handed Swarzak and left-handed Blevins, new Mets manager Mickey Callaway will have two relievers coming off excellent years to mix and match with at his disposal. Blevins soared in his third season as the Mets' lefty specialist; lefties hit just .197 against him. Swarzak is a slider specialist who struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings in 2017 with the White Sox and Brewers. Both have been successful in their careers against hitters from both sides, as has Ramos, who sports a career's worth of fairly even platoon splits. This kind of versatility should prove to be an asset to the club's newly constructed bridge to the ninth.
About that ninth inning. It's still Familia's job, with the righty healthy again after missing most of 2017 after blood clot surgery. But which Familia will he be? The dominant closer he was from 2015-2016, when he used his upper-90s sinker and devastating splitter to convert 94 total saves? Or the less refined version from last season, when his velocity dipped and old control issues bubbled back up?
With Ramos, Swarzak and Blevins in the fold, the Mets have in-house options if Familia struggles. But if he rebounds, the back end of their bullpen could be great.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Familia, Swarzak, Ramos and Blevins are probably the only locks for the Opening Day bullpen, though it's tough to see the Mets breaking camp without Sewald, Robles and Montero, who is out of options.
That final spot will likely be a revolving door that leads to both the Minor League pipeline and the Major League rotation. Montero, Lugo and Robert Gsellman could all be called on to spot start, and the smart money is on them all being asked to at some point (due to injuries, the Mets needed 12 different starters last season).
More often though, the club plans to call on these types less as long relievers and more as flex arms, able to provide multiple innings in the middle of games. Expect them to filter in and out of the 'pen and, as a result, the clubhouse, with Gsellman and Lugo the strongest candidates to spend their rest days at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Here is where their newfound depth comes in. Jamie Callahan and Jacob Rhame, acquired in trades for Addison Reed and Curtis Granderson, respectively, last summer, head a crowded group of prospects fighting for time in what could become a final roster spot carousel.