Mets finalize deal with Diekman; Fujinami reaches 1-yr deal (source)

February 6th, 2024

NEW YORK -- The Mets are a couple steps closer to completing their bullpen, having reached one-year deals with right-hander and lefty . The club announced Diekman's one-year contract, which includes a club option, on Tuesday but has not confirmed Fujinami's deal, which is for one year, per a source. Right-hander Austin Adams was designated for assignment in another move announced Tuesday.

Once both are finalized, the moves will give the Mets, who entered the offseason with only one reliever on a guaranteed contract, a full complement of options from which to choose. In addition to Fujinami and Diekman, the Mets will feature Edwin Díaz, Brooks Raley, Adam Ottavino, Jorge López and Drew Smith in their bullpen, with room for one or two more.

Fujinami's deal is for $3.35 million and includes up to $850,000 in incentives, according to a source, making him one of the four highest-paid arms in New York’s bullpen. The faith in Fujinami is based largely on the quality of his stuff; he was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball last season, topping out at 102.6 mph and throwing more triple-digit fastballs than all but eight pitchers.

But Fujinami struggled to harness his high-octane arsenal, walking 5.1 batters per nine innings while producing a 7.18 ERA over 64 appearances (seven starts). His 4.61 Fielding Independent Pitching metric suggested he was one of the unluckiest pitchers in MLB, and his fortunes did improve after he moved from Oakland’s rotation to its bullpen. Upon going to the Orioles in a Deadline deal, Fujinami posted a 4.85 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 15 walks over 29 2/3 innings.

Before coming stateside, the 29-year-old Fujinami spent 10 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball. He is set to become the 15th Japanese-born pitcher to appear for the Mets.

Diekman, 37, agreed to a deal worth around $4 million plus a vesting option for 2025, according to a source. He struggled early last season but demonstrated marked improvement after the Rays signed him as a midseason free agent. From that point forward, Diekman held left-handed batters to a .597 OPS, which is more in line with what he’s done over a 12-year career. Once his deal is completed, Diekman will give the Mets a secondary left-handed option behind Brooks Raley, who threw 68% of the team’s left-handed bullpen innings last season.

The Mets have been more aggressive in adding bullpen help than with any other aspect of their roster this offseason. In addition to adding López, Ottavino, Fujinami and Diekman on one-year deals, president of baseball operations David Stearns acquired many others on Minor League deals, split contracts and waiver claims. The team plans to invite at least 22 relievers to Major League camp, including holdovers Phil Bickford, Grant Hartwig and Reed Garrett; newcomers Yohan Ramírez and Michael Tonkin; and prospects Nate Lavender and Eric Orze.

More than a dozen of those pitchers will compete for what appear to be one or two open bullpen spots.

For a club that finished 22nd in the Majors in bullpen ERA (4.45) last season, that competition should help. But most important will be the return of Díaz, who missed the entire 2023 campaign recovering from right knee surgery. Díaz is expected to be fully healthy at the start of camp and reclaim his role as the team’s unquestioned closer.