Mets’ fill-in closer Jose Valverde has been awful over his last three appearances. During that span of just three innings, he’s given up 8 runs (5 earned) on six hits. Four of those hits were home runs. It’s almost like he’s no longer a viable, high-leverage closer. Who would’ve thought it? Except for the Tigers, who released him after multiple failed attempts at reviving his closer role with the team. Also, all of the other teams that didn’t sign him this off-season probably had an accurate reading on what he had left in the tank.
To be fair, Valverde wasn’t signed to be the Mets’ closer. It was a move, according to Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, to add a veteran presence to the bullpen. Unfortunately for Mets fans, “veteran” in manager Terry Collin’s eyes means “first crack” and “long leash.” Such was the case when Bobby Parnell went down with injury and Valverde was slotted in the closer role.
Collins suggested after Valverde’s latest meltdown that he’d address the situation. This ultimately translates to Valverde being pushed out of the closer role, which actually flies in the face of his tendency to have a long leash with veterans a bit. Perhaps he’s starting to feel the pressure of the Mets shifting priority, which is moving from rebuilding and developing young players to trying to actually win games.
Note that the original draft of this piece predicted that veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth would be selected to inherit the closer role. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Collins made that official this morning. Mets fans now have the privilege of depending on a pitcher that the team found it necessary to release during Spring Training because of an absolutely abysmal performance to close games. They later re-signed him to a minor league deal. Now he’s the team’s closer. Baseball is funny like that.
Farnsworth has actually been rather good so far in 2014. He’s given up one earned run and six hits while striking out five and walking no one over eight appearances and 7.1 innings. Although his 1.23 ERA is outperforming his 2.53 FIP, he has an ERA- of 35(!). Don’t let that fool you, though.
His velocity is down and has been going down over the last few years, which is not surprising for the 38-year-old. His ERA and FIP are also completely out of line with what he’s put up the last couple of years. Don’t forget that we’re still very much in small sample territory here. Valverde had fantastic numbers over his first several appearances before completely imploding.
Is it fair to prematurely deem Farnsworth as a failure as closer? It’s a prediction in which I’d be very glad to be wrong. It’s certainly possible that he’s having a renaissance-type year, much like the Mets had with LaTroy Hawkins last season. They really shouldn’t bank on it, though.
The problem is that there are no real alternatives on the roster at this point. That’s a failing on Alderson’s part, and one that he’ll need to address sooner rather than later. This team will sink or swim with its pitching staff, and having a bullpen that (again) ranks near the bottom of the league is a surefire way for this team to submit yet another losing season.