Salas re-signs after great final stretch; Gorzelanny added on Minors deal
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Not long after Madison Bumgarner sent the Mets to the showers in the National League Wild Card Game, the club was confident it could accomplish its two primary offseason goals: re-sign Yoenis Cespedes and trade an outfielder for a top-of-the-line reliever. After that, the Mets would shore up their roster with the type of unflashy, but often fruitful, pieces that add depth.
On Friday, the Mets reportedly agreed to contracts with relievers Fernando Salas and Tom Gorzelanny. The club hasn't confirmed either report, which were provided by MLB Network insiders Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman.
Gorzelanny, a 12-year veteran who appeared in seven games last year with Cleveland, could earn up to $1.8 million in incentives if he makes the big league roster. He is the newest member in a group who will contend for a left-handed-specialist job, the role vacated by Jerry Blevins this offseason. Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, Adam Wilk and P.J. Conlon are other candidates.
The contract terms for Salas, a seven-year veteran who was acquired from the Angels on Aug. 31 and was in his first year of free agency, were not reported. After struggling to a 3-6 mark with a 4.47 ERA in 58 outings for the Angels, he tossed 17 1/3 innings with just four earned runs (2.08 ERA), zero walks and 19 strikeouts over 17 outings with the Mets.
Both players will have a chance to earn a spot with the Major League club, and the additions are consistent with Mets GM Sandy Alderson's preferred strategy of signing relievers to low-risk contracts and having the best emerge from spring competition.
Mets officials also spoke publicly of a desire to acquire an elite reliever who could complement these types of arms, but they were unable to obtain one by trading a superfluous outfield piece like they'd hoped.
And while Salas and Gorzelanny are veterans who have been productive, neither is likely to fill the innings New York will need in place of Jeurys Familia if the closer is suspended by Major League Baseball during the early part of the year. Familia was arrested on a domestic violence charge in November, but those charges were eventually dropped.
STRETCH THEM OUT
Speaking to fans gathered at the Mets' annual Spring Training sendoff on Friday, special assistant to the GM J.P. Ricciardi indicated Addison Reed would slide into the closer's role if Familia is unavailable. Reed was dominant as Familia's setup man in 2016, posting an excellent 1.97 ERA and 7:1 K/BB rate in 80 appearances.
Still, the Mets would miss Familia, who led the Majors with 51 saves last season. They're considering a strategy to make up his production on the back end, with a combination of Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and/or Zack Wheeler asked to pitch multiple innings of middle relief -- instead of having one pitcher designated for each late inning.
"I always questioned as an industry why we don't use pitchers for two innings instead of one inning," Ricciardi said. "We have guys who can give you more than one inning. That puts us in a driver's seat when you're talking about the bullpen."
All three are also candidates to start, though they'll likely be battling for one rotation spot.
RIVERA ON THE MOVE?
In addition to bullpen help, there seems to be an industry-wide search for versatility and positional flexability, with infielders transitioning to the outfield like never before.
The Mets share that interest in players who can be used interchangeably at multiple positions, which is why despite an apparent logjam in the outfield, the club will attempt to convert two more players into outfielders this spring.
One is shortstop Jose Reyes, who will get a chance to try center field nearly a year after the Mets first conceived of the idea. The other is T.J. Rivera, a September callup sensation who'll likely see his infield playing time limited with Neil Walker re-signed to play second base.
It remains to be seen if Rivera has the foot speed or arm to contribute in center or right field over Juan Lagares, who brings those attributes in spades. The Mets are more focused on Rivera's right-handed bat, hoping it can occasionally provide their lefty-heavy outfield a reprieve against left-handed starters.
With Cespedes cemented in left field, the Mets have Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto -- all left-handed hitters -- for two outfield spots. Together, those three combined to hit .207 against left-handers last season.
"Any kind of matchup that favors us by being able to put right-handed bats in the lineup," Ricciardi said, "that's the idea behind getting guys reps out there."
Rivera posted reverse splits, somewhat curiously, in limited time last season. While his high-contact approach resulted in a .333/.345/.476 line, he hit just .229 against left-handers in 35 plate appearances. The Mets believe those numbers may be more of an aberration than those of Granderson and Bruce, who have long struggled against lefties, or Conforto, who has been somewhat shielded from them since debuting in 2015.
The Mets feel there is value in having the option to mix and match. This is nothing new for the Mets, who toyed with the ideas of trying Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the outfield last season. The Flores idea was eventually scratched, with the club unconvinced Flores possessed the proper foot speed. The club preferred Reyes not be forced to make the adjustment in-season.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.