The first signing of the Mets’ Brodie Van Wagenen era became official Thursday: lefthanded reliever Ryan O’Rourke.
Having agreed to a minor-league deal with an invitation to big-league spring training, O’Rourke, 30, will try to revive his career after missing most of the past two seasons because of Tommy John surgery in May 2017.
O’Rourke, a career reliever, pitched in 54 games for the Twins in 2015-16, posting a 4.98 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and about a strikeout per inning. After surgery, he got back on the mound in July, eventually getting into three Triple-A games. Across four minor-league levels, O’Rourke had a 1.26 ERA (two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings) and a 0.63 WHIP.
Considering their dearth of established major-league relievers, the Mets offer about as great an opportunity as any team in O’Rourke’s quest to return to the majors. Of a likely eight bullpen spots to open 2019, the Mets have as few as three relievers — and no southpaws — penciled in for jobs: Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak.
After that, it’s a bunch of question marks and a large group of relievers, few of whom pitched well in the majors in 2018, who will fight for the other spots in spring training. That includes Tyler Bashlor, Daniel Zamora, Eric Hanhold, Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame and Bobby Wahl. Gerson Bautista, a hard-throwing righthander who got hit around in five major-league games, is something of a wild card in that bunch, posting a 2.38 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in the Arizona Fall League in recent weeks.
Because of that uncertainty, Van Wagenen, hired as general manager last month, recently said the Mets will look to bring in multiple major-league relievers this offseason. Aiding the Mets in that goal is the quantity of quality relievers on the free-agent market, including former Mets closer Jeurys Familia, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Adam Ottavino, Joe Kelly and Brad Brach.