LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — One day after whiffing on a pair of their top bullpen targets, the Mets made their first move of the winter meetings Wednesday, signing righthander Anthony Swarzak to a two-year contract worth $14 million, sources told Newsday.
The deal is pending a physical before becoming official, though it accomplishes a major goal for general manager Sandy Alderson. He has listed bolstering the bullpen as one of his top offseason priorities.
Swarzak, 32, represents a formidable consolation prize after the Mets were outbid for relievers Bryan Shaw and Tommy Hunter, who had emerged as top targets.
“Right now, we’re happy with the way things have gone and how things have evolved,” Alderson said, speaking generally.
Now that he’s shored up a back end of the bullpen that includes Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia, Alderson hinted that the Mets’ likely won’t add another bullpen arm. Instead, the Mets intend to “move onto other things.”
Adding a second baseman remains a priority. Even though multiple reports on Wednesday night had the Tigers and Angels completing a trade for Ian Kinsler — one of the Mets’ targets — options abound, including the Pirates’ Josh Harrison and the Indians’ Jason Kipnis.
The Mets could also expand the pool to include the Marlins’ recently acquired Starlin Castro. But sources said the Mets likely will not pursue the former Yankee.
Behind an uptick in velocity, Swarzak is coming off a career year in which he had a 2.33 ERA in 70 appearances for the White Sox and Brewers, who acquired him in a trade just before the trade deadline.
According to a rival talent evaluator, Swarzak’s fastball velocity had been touching 97 mph by season’s end with a slider clocked in the low 90s. The righty possessed strong command of both pitches, helping to register a career-best 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
The breakout season came after stints with the Twins, Indians and Yankees. But by handing out a multiyear pact, it’s clear that Mets believe Swarzak’s spike in production is sustainable.
The signing came the day after the Mets suffered what looked to be a setback.
Shaw had been linked to the Mets for much of the offseason. The connection seemed logical given his tenure with the Indians under Mickey Callaway, who was hired this offseason as Mets manager. But the durable righty spurned the Mets to sign a three-year, $27-million deal with the Rockies.
Sources told Newsday that the Mets also offered a three-year contract, and while the dollars didn’t match the Rockies’ offer, they were within the ballpark. According to sources, Mets officials believed Shaw’s decision was motivated in part by a desire to join a team that held spring training closer to his Arizona home rather than in Florida.
Hunter signed a two-year, $18-million contract with the Phillies. Though he was coveted, he proved too expensive for the Mets, who have faced questions about a reduced payroll after a 92-loss season.
With the relief market heating up, and suddenly confronting the possibility of being shut out of an impact upgrade, the Mets pivoted. The deal with Swarzak came together relatively quickly.
A reunion with Addison Reed also had been considered. But the former Mets setup man is looking for a three-year deal, according to a source.
The Mets have expressed interest in free-agent third baseman Todd Frazier, according to the New York Post. Alderson has indicated that Asdrubal Cabrera likely would play mostly at third, though he said the Mets could be flexible. “It’s possible,” Alderson said of Cabrera playing at other positions. “But it’s not a scenario right now that I foresee. It could change.”
Notes & quotes: The Mets are auctioning off dinner with the SNY broadcast crew, a chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and a tour of the Mets Hall of Fame with John Franco and Mookie Wilson. Proceeds will benefit the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, in honor of the longtime MLB executive. The website for bids is MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction. The auction closes Thursday.
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