Mets, Yankees eyeing Justin Wilson for more bullpen help

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One pitcher alone won’t fill the considerable void left by Seth Lugo’s injury. The Mets added to their village of arms Sunday with a couple of familiar names as they’ve engaged on an even more familiar one.

Just a day after they announced Lugo will be shut down for six weeks as he recovers from surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, the Mets officially added veterans Tommy Hunter and Mike Montgomery to their list of spring-training non-roster invitees, signing both to minor league contracts.

Meanwhile, the Mets have remained in touch with the representatives for southpaw Justin Wilson, who pitched very effectively for them the prior two seasons and also has been in contact with the Yankees, his 2015 employer.

Hunter, a 34-year-old right-hander, has spent 13 seasons in the big leagues and he performed quite well in 2020 for the Phillies, sporting a 4.01 ERA in 24 games (totaling 24 ²/₃ innings) while striking out 25 and walking six. His 3.31 FIP reflects the likelihood that small-sampled bad luck factored into his ERA computing as high as it did.

Montgomery, a 31-year-old left-hander, by contrast experienced a rough and brief 2020, appearing in only three games (one start) for the Royals and posting a 5.06 ERA. He missed nearly two months with a lat strain, and Kansas City outrighted him, after which Montgomery elected free agency, rather than tender him a contract. His biggest claim to fame arguably came in 2016, when he recorded the last out of the Cubs’ first championship since 1908.

The 33-year-old Wilson will get a major league contract with someone, and that is expected to be resolved shortly, with pitchers and catchers beginning their workouts this week. He has interest in returning to the Mets after becoming one of former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s best acquisitions, tallying a combined 2.91 ERA in his two seasons (68 games).

The Yankees continue to hunt for more pitching after adding Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Darren O’Day as Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Adam Ottavino departed. They know Wilson from 2015, when he put up a 3.10 ERA in 74 games, and they proceeded to trade him to the Tigers for pitchers Luis Cessa and Chad Green, both of whom remain Yankees.

Wilson began his career with the Pirates, and in his last two seasons there, 2013 and 2014, he welcomed aboard a young Gerrit Cole, now the Yankees’ ace, as a teammate. Taillon, moreover, was part of the Pirates’ organization alongside Wilson, although he didn’t enter the major leagues until 2016.

With every move they make, as long as they remain determined to keep under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, the Yankees’ likelihood of re-signing Brett Gardner diminishes. The 37-year-old Gardner, a career-long Yankee since getting drafted in 2005, has not been shy about wanting to stay in the pinstripes, and he wound up producing a solid 2020 mini-season. However, the Yankees’ luxury-tax payroll number stands at about $201 million, giving the Yankees limited maneuverability for in-season moves, and on Saturday, they signed free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce, a lefty swinger like Gardner, to a minor league contract.

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