LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After two days of waiting at the Winter Meetings, the Mets finally made a move on Wednesday. Having spent the last few weeks talking about how they needed to bulk up their bullpen, a key cog in the new plan to manage their pitching, and watching impact relievers sign elsewhere, the Mets made a fairly big commitment to Anthony Swarzak, who is coming off a breakout year but doesn’t have a very long track record of success.
The right-hander, who pitched for the Brewers and White Sox last season, signed for two years and $ 14 million, a team source confirmed. The deal is pending his physical.
Sandy Alderson could not comment on the details of the deal until it was official.
“We wanted to acquire an extra arm, we felt it was a relative strength,” Alderson said, speaking hypothetically of the deal. “If we were able to successful acquire that extra arm, have strength in that area of that team and then we would probably be looking elsewhere (on the team) for the next upgrade.”
The Mets had hoped to make a significant upgrade to the back of the bullpen this week while all of baseball is convened at the Swan and Dolphin Disney resort. They ended last season with the second-worst bullpen ERA in baseball, and with plans to limit starters’ innings more carefully this season and have a more fluid bullpen, they needed help.
Bigger-named relievers with more of a track record were in high demand and commanded big contracts. Brandon Morrow went to the Cubs for two years, $ 21 million before the meetings even began. Bryan Shaw, an early target because of new manager Mickey Callaway’s connection to him, signed with the Rockies, and then within the Mets’ own division, the Phillies bulked up their bullpen by adding Pat Neshek on a two-year, $ 16.25-million deal and Tommy Hunter for two years, $ 18 million.
“Certainly there was a lot of activity. It’s the one area there has been a lot of activity, at least on the free-agent market,” Alderson said of the relief market. “We said the last several days, we were going to work through the options and make a deal that made sense for us. “
So, the Mets are putting their bullpen money on a pitcher who has had a breakout season at age 31.
Anthony Swarzak pitched with the Brewers and White Sox last season.
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)
He pitched to a 2.33 ERA in 77.1 innings over 70 appearances last season. In parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, however, Swarzak has pitched to a 4.22 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP for his career.
The Brewers, who traded for Swarzak last summer, were interested in bringing him back after he pitched fairly well for them. That success came from changes in his repertoire he made in 2015, which was also when he briefly crossed paths with Callaway in Cleveland.
He started the 2015 season with Cleveland on a minor-league deal and pitched 10 games for the big-league team before being released in May and opting to finish the season playing in Korea.
Swarzak, who pitched to a 5.50 ERA in 26 appearances for the Yankees in 2016, improved his slider and added some velocity to his fastball last season, according to a scout who saw him. That helped him to his best season in eight years in the majors.
Swarzak recorded 91 strikeouts last season for a 10.6 strikeout per nine-inning rate in 2017, the most effective of his career.
“We said at the outset that relief pitching was something we are going to try to acquire. We continue to work in that direction,” Alderson said. “Right now we’re happy with the way things have gone and how things have evolved, and we may have something more definitive in the next few days.”