Is Jose Valverde worth the risk for the Mets?

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.

Year K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/BB
2009 9.33 3.50 0.83 2.67
2010 9.00 4.57 0.71 1.97
2011 8.59 4.23 0.62 2.03
2012 6.36 3.52 0.39 1.78

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.

15 comments for “Is Jose Valverde worth the risk for the Mets?

  1. February 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

    So basically you want the Mets to either rehash old hopes(K-Rod) or recycle other team rejects. There is a reason Detroit didn’t sign Valverde. But for you that means we should take the risks that other teams will not. Not very prudent. Next you’ll want Brian Wilson.Can we stop looking for rehab projects or recycled veterans on their last legs?Can’t we try to look for someone new and refreshing and build them into the closer the Mets can use for the next 5 years? If Valverde has lost his control why would you even contemplate signing him? Continue to build from within.

    • February 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Hi Pete,

      I’m not advocating for Valverde either. The Mets don’t really have the internal resources right now that can perform in the closer role. I did mention Collin McHugh in a previous post as a possibility for use in a high leverage situation, but the Mets still need an arm in the bullpen to close out games, unless you still want Frank Francisco doing that. Obviously Valverde isn’t worth the money nor the risk, and then that leaves us with K-Rod who’s probably going to be cheaper,and he doesn’t have the declining peripherals that Valverde does.

      • February 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        Hi Spencer,
        I was rethinking my thoughts on the Mets need for a closer. If Valverde or Brian Wilson can be had for a relatively cheap contract with bonus incentives attached I would definitely consider that a preferable option over Francisco or K-Rod.

        • February 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm

          Hi Pete,

          Just curious, what’s the problem for signing K-Rod? Valverde isn’t really a great option considering he’s on the road to a Heath Bell type season and Brian Wilson is a complete question mark because of his history of arm injuries.

    • February 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      One Team’s reject, may be another Team’s success story; it has happened!!!

      • February 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm

        I believe the phrase is “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”
        Not sure Valverde is anyone’s treasure though.

  2. Metsense
    February 3, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I like that Sandy is signing as many veteran relievers to minor league contracts and seeing if one sticks (and maybe one accepts a minor league deal).it is a good way to assure depth. Even so, it would also be nice to bring in a veteran closer who would replace Rauch and his 3.5M salary. If K Rod or Valverde wants to accept a 1 year at that price (or less) then the Mets should do it.

  3. Name
    February 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    If the price tag is low enough, there is little risk in signing him.

  4. Chris F
    February 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    He’s a slam dunk to sign on a low salary. I wish we had a Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman in the chain, but we obviously don’t, whether its Mejia or Familia or Parnell. Right now the many cheap contracts with the hope of landing someone decent makes sense right now. It aso makes the idea of Bourn stand out as inconsistent.

  5. February 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Great insights. I am looking forward to more writing from Spencer Manners!

  6. February 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Yes, I knew how the actual saying goes: its called adapting a saying to your, in this case my purposes!! I would not choose to call anyone garbage………………..

    • February 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Can I interest you in a crew of… seasoned major leaguers for your team? Today I have Luis Castillo, Jason Bay and Manny Acosta available for an excellent price.

      (This is from a baseball perspective. From a human perspective, guys like Barry Bonds are garbage.)

      • February 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Always the need to insult someone………………………..

  7. February 4, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    If the Mets are going to pursue players on their downside or who have had serious injuries and are rehabilitating then offer them contracts with incentives on staying healthy and performance.

  8. February 11, 2013 at 12:22 am

    The problem with K-Rod is his mental health. Questionable judgement and too arrogant for me. To attack someone at the players lounge with no thought of the repercussions of his actions speaks volumes. If Valverde or Wilson passed their physicals then I would offer them incentive based contracts. Not that I would want the Mets to eagerly pursue either. Each pitcher has their shortcomings.

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