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Mets Agree to 1-year Deals with Relievers Shintaro Fujinami and Jake Diekman, AP Sources Say

AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File
Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Baltimore.

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets beefed up their bullpen with two moves Friday, agreeing with free agents Shintaro Fujinami and Jake Diekman on one-year contracts.

Fujinami’s deal is for $3.35 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement was subject to a successful physical.

The hard-throwing right-hander can earn an additional $850,000 in performance bonuses for games: $100,000 for 35 and $250,000 each for 40, 55 and 60.

Diekman’s deal is also pending a physical, according to a different person familiar with that agreement. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been finalized.

Fujinami and Diekman, a veteran lefty, are significant additions to a Mets bullpen that struggled last year but is suddenly beginning to look much deeper under new president of baseball operations David Stearns. New York re-signed experienced setup man Adam Ottavino to a $4.5 million, one-year contract Tuesday, and star closer Edwin Díaz is expected to be healthy this spring after missing last season following right knee surgery.

The relief corps also includes lefty Brooks Raley, right-handers Drew Smith and Phil Bickford, and newcomer Jorge López — an All-Star in 2022 with Baltimore.

The 29-year-old Fujinami joins fellow Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga on the Mets. Senga went 12-7 with a 2.98 ERA last season and finished second to Arizona outfielder Corbin Carroll in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Fujinami left the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League to sign a $3.25 million, one-year deal with Oakland under which he also earned a $100,000 performance bonus.

He started 0-4 in the rotation last year and was moved to the bullpen, then made three more starts in June. He was traded to Baltimore on July 19 and was much more effective in short stints as a reliever for the AL East champion Orioles, going 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA and two saves in 30 appearances.

Fujinami, who features a 98-99 mph fastball, finished 7-8 overall with a 7.18 ERA in seven starts and 57 relief appearances. Control was an issue: He struck out 83 batters but walked 45 in 79 innings.

The 37-year-old Diekman went 0-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 63 relief appearances for the White Sox and Rays last season. He got released by Chicago in early May and four days later signed with Tampa Bay, where he was much more successful the rest of the way, compiling a 2.18 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings over 50 outings.

Diekman is 25-31 with a 3.82 ERA and 15 saves in 12 major league seasons. He also has pitched for Philadelphia, Texas, Arizona, Kansas City, Oakland and Boston.

The Mets also traded catcher Tyler Heineman to Boston for cash on Friday. The Red Sox designated right-hander Max Castillo for assignment. The 32-year-old Heineman hit .237 in 22 games for Pittsburgh and Toronto last season. He was claimed by the Mets off waivers from Toronto on Dec. 1 and designated for assignment on Tuesday to open a roster spot for Ottavino.