The Mets lack a reliable reliever, and although they have some younger talent who could potentially fill the void, virtually everyone in the bullpen is a question mark. Over the weekend, rumors arose that the Mets were thinking about pursuing the flamboyant closer, Jose Valverde. The Mets do desperately need an arm in the bullpen to add some depth, and to replace their current closer Frank Francisco, but Valverde comes with his own predicaments.
In 2011,when it came to closing games out, Valverde was nearly unflappable. He converted all 49 save opportunities into saves, and his ERA-,FIP-,xFIP- line didn’t disappoint at a mark of 54/86/99. He established himself as one of the most dominant closers in the game. In 2012, Valverde’s dominance was lost, his ERA and xFIP skyrocketed, and he found himself replaced in the playoffs by Phil Coke. Yet, there were notable warning signs in his peripherals that could have made his decline a little less surprising.
Looking at Valverde’s peripherals from the last four years, a couple of things are noticeable. His strikeout rate declined considerably, indicating that Valverde is probably having some sort of control issue. He’s not throwing as many strikes, and as a result, he’s not striking as many guys out. This is reflected in his declining K/BB ratio, a stat that measures how well a pitcher can control his stuff; the higher the K/BB, the better. In Valverde’s case, his K/BB continued to decline, meaning he had difficulty keeping his walks down and his strikeouts up. What’s interesting about Valverde’s HR/9 is that his problems keeping the ball in the park are almost non-existent. This is rather unusual when it comes to a pitcher who has control issues, although he did pitch at Commerica, a pitcher-friendly park. However, it’s more likely that Valverde is probably just walking a lot of guys, and striking fewer guys out, while still managing to keep the ball in the yard.
It’s pretty obvious by looking at Valverde’s rate stats that he’s in decline. His K/9 differences between 2011 and 2012 speak volumes about where he’s heading. The question is whether or not it’s worth it for the Mets to sign him. Since he was just average last season, and at the most pivotal moments he was horrible, he should be less expensive to sign than a premium reliever. Although he could be cheaper, given that for the past four years he’s been in decline, we shouldn’t count on him having a major bounce-back season anytime soon. He’s 34 years old and not getting any younger, not to mention the fact that he’s a little bit overweight, which could lead to injuries or a decline in velocity.
Despite that the Mets desperately need a reliever, and Valverde is available, he’s probably not the best choice to man the rubber in the later innings. His declining peripherals are indicative of what’s to come. The Mets could play it safe and sign him to a one-year deal and tack on incentives, but that doesn’t really fix the problem because next year the Mets are just going to have to go out and find another reliever. Since signing Valverde for more than two years is asking for trouble, the Mets could consider reuniting with Francisco Rodriguez. Rodriguez did have a worse year than Valverde, however, his peripherals were not in decline, indicating that a bounce-back season is probably more likely to come from Rodriguez. It helps that he would be moving to a pitcher’s park at Citi Field because he struggled to keep the ball in the yard at Miller Park. Rodriguez probably is an overall better fit for the organization because he’s younger and his peripherals aren’t in decline, indicating that he’ll probably have more value and longevity than Valverde.