NEW YORK -- The Mets' 2016 strategy is to acquire depth, increase versatility and otherwise do their best to recreate the magic of 2015.
The Mets took another step in that direction Monday, following their trade for Jay Bruce with the reacquisition of left-handed pitcher Jonathon Niese. To obtain him, they dealt lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates.
• Mets acquire Bruce from Reds for 2 prospects
Niese, 29, struggled with Pittsburgh since the Mets sent him there in December in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker. Initially a member of the Pirates' rotation, Niese earned a demotion to the bullpen after his ERA rose to 5.13 in mid-July. He has since made five relief appearances, posting a 2.16 ERA in that role.
What attracted the Mets to Niese was his versatility. Initially, he will replace Bastardo in the bullpen, with an eye toward joining the rotation if the Mets' injury woes continue. Currently, Logan Verrett is serving as the Mets' fifth starter, in large part because Zack Wheeler has suffered multiple setbacks in his return from Tommy John surgery. Though Wheeler is due to begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday, the Mets could still use rotation insurance, considering Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both pitching through bone spurs in their elbows.
• Wheeler to make 1st rehab start on Saturday
"He would obviously give us an alternative in the event of our starting pitching thinned out, or if Zack Wheeler was unable to come back," general manager Sandy Alderson said of Niese. "He does give us some protection there. He gives somebody who can pitch long out of the 'pen and he's also left-handed. We think he has some versatility, and that we have some options with him if necessary."
Niese has team options for $10 million and $11 million the next two seasons, which the Mets can buy out for $1 million total.
A staple of the Mets' rotation from 2010-15, Niese was 61-61 with a 3.91 ERA over an eight-year career in New York, also posting a 5.06 ERA in six postseason relief appearances. His time there was not without its warts; trade rumors first engulfed him after he reportedly swore at manager Terry Collins on the mound late in 2014, an episode that Collins later denied. Following his trade to the Pirates in December, Niese also made some thinly veiled critiques of the Mets' defense.
"I think there will be some things that will be addressed," Collins said. "There are some guys that are still here that were here last year. … But the job he did in the postseason last year out of the bullpen, I didn't forget. Right now, we need that kind of guy to step up."
Perhaps the Mets are not done adding 2015 pieces, either. Already, the team has reacquired Niese and infielder Kelly Johnson. Alderson did not downplay the notion that the Mets may also take a hard look at infielder Juan Uribe, a cog of the '15 postseason run whom the Indians on Monday designated for assignment.
But no longer part of their plans is Bastardo, whom the Mets signed to a two-year, $12 million deal last winter. Never able to obtain Collins' trust, Bastardo mixed a career-high home run rate with his usual high walk rate to post a 4.74 ERA.