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Inbox: Should Mets send a starter to bullpen?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

To date, the Hot Stove has been quiet for the Mets (and most teams around baseball). Expect that to change soon, with the Winter Meetings looming just two weeks away. Until then, here's a fresh batch of questions and answers regarding the Mets' plans:

Last year the performances of Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman were real inconsistent and unpredictable each time they took the mound. How realistic would it be for one or more of them to be moved to the bullpen?
-- @MillManner via Twitter

To date, the Hot Stove has been quiet for the Mets (and most teams around baseball). Expect that to change soon, with the Winter Meetings looming just two weeks away. Until then, here's a fresh batch of questions and answers regarding the Mets' plans:

Last year the performances of Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman were real inconsistent and unpredictable each time they took the mound. How realistic would it be for one or more of them to be moved to the bullpen?
-- @MillManner via Twitter

This is going to depend on a number of factors, including whether the Mets acquire an additional starter this winter. If they do, there will be more opportunity for them to send someone such as Lugo or Gsellman to the bullpen. If not, the Mets still run essentially eight-deep in their rotation, counting those two and Rafael Montero. It would behoove them to keep as many of those pitchers as possible stretched out, even if that means starting them at Triple-A.

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That said, the Mets have made it clear that starter and bullpen roles will be more blurred than ever in 2018. If Lugo starts games, for example, he isn't likely to face opposing hitters a third time through the order with much regularity. And he won't be alone in that regard, creating a need for more long relievers. Even if Lugo or Gsellman end up in the bullpen, their innings totals may not suffer to a significant extent.

Are the Mets actively looking for a reliable closer?
-- @Patters7Timothy via Twitter

Not exactly. The Mets believe they already have a reliable closer in Jeurys Familia, who should reclaim that role in Spring Training. And if Familia falters or suffers another significant injury, the team feels it is covered with setup man AJ Ramos, a former successful closer himself.

So the Mets aren't likely to acquire Wade Davis or Greg Holland, the two free agents most likely to demand ninth-inning jobs while negotiating their contracts. But they very well may shop in the second free-agent tier, which includes some impressive names: Addison Reed, Brandon Morrow, Mike Minor, Bryan Shaw and others. Acquiring one of those would still require a heavy multi-year investment, but would not necessarily force them to rip Familia's job away from him.

And no matter how the roles ultimately shake out, a back end of Familia, Ramos, Jerry Blevins and, say, Shaw, would be a significant step up from what the Mets employed at the start of 2017.

What did the Mets see in Dominic Smith that seemed to change their thoughts of him being a significant piece moving forward?
-- @zbohn_11 via Twitter

It's time to clear the air on Smith. No one in the Mets' front office has ever said the team has given up on the 22-year-old as a significant piece moving forward. No one on the coaching staff has said it, either. The Mets still hope Smith will be their first baseman of the future; his underwhelming seven-week cup of coffee didn't change that.

What it did do was call into question Smith's readiness for a starting job heading into 2018, which in turn is prompting the Mets to look at first-base alternatives. They'll probably acquire someone capable of playing both first and the outfield, giving them flexibility for both scenarios -- one in which Smith is the starting first baseman, and one in which he's not.

Barring a complete collapse, Smith will play a significant role for the Mets in 2018. Maybe it won't be on Opening Day. Maybe he'll begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Maybe, even, there will be nothing he can do in Spring Training to win a spot. But to think he won't log ample big league at-bats over the course of the summer is an unlikely scenario at this point.

What's the future of the Captain realistically looking like?
-- @FalseMets via Twitter

If I knew, I would tell you. The truth is no one -- not even David Wright himself -- knows how much he will be able to contribute through the balance of his contract, which expires following the 2020 season. As such, the Mets are not taking him into consideration as they make their offseason plans. If Wright can play, and play well, that will be a bonus. If he can't, they will be covered at third base to the extent that their budget allows.

How concerned should the Mets be about the long-term health of Michael Conforto's shoulder?
-- @jheuer515 via Twitter

Ideally, not very concerned. That's why Conforto opted for surgery over rehab in the first place, so that he would have less concern about future dislocations and ligament issues.

Realistically, surgery is never a good thing. There will always be a chance Conforto reinjures the shoulder. But the Mets' hope is that by getting things patched up now, Conforto won't have to worry about his health in the short term. If his rehab stretches into late April or May, that's a small price to pay for such peace of mind.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

New York Mets, Seth Lugo