The question on who should close for the Mets is twofold.
Second, with Francisco Rodriguez’s Mets career in limbo, should the Mets look elsewhere for a closer in the off-season or go into 2011 with either Takahashi or Parnell?
First things first.
While Takahashi has been a pleasant surprise this year (8-6 with a 4.04 ERA), in both as a starter and in relief, I think the Mets might be better served if Parnell was the closer.
Parnell has been pitching well of late, throwing six and a third straight scoreless innings with six strikeouts while only allowing one hit and no walks. The qualities you want in a closer is a guy with an overpowering fastball and an intimidating presence, something Parnell possesses. Takahashi is more of a finesse pitcher who likes to locate his spots and change speeds.
At the age of 35, Takahashi doesn’t have much of an upside, and closing will only be something he will do temporarily. He is better suited in the rotation or for middle relief.
On the flip side, closing is something that could definitely be in the cards for Parnell.
Manuel has conceded as much.
“I believe there will come a time in his career where he’ll be the guy that you give the ball to in the ninth inning to close out the game,” said Manuel to reporters earlier this week.
Last week in Houston, Parnell came in late and was consistently hitting around 100 miles per hour on the radar gun. That is some impressive heat.
With the Mets on the outer edge of playoff contention, Manuel thinks Takahashi is the safer of the two to lock down a game in the 9th. He may be right, but Parnell has a long future ahead of him with the Mets. Who knows how long Takahashi will stick around with the Mets, as he is on a one-year deal.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Takahashi and I would bring him back if I were the Mets, but there is no chance he will be the closer next year.
And, again, that is where Parnell comes into the equation. If the Mets think Parnell can close next year than go ahead and throw him into the mix right now. Why wait?
Look, I get that the Mets are technically not out of it, but any streak left in the Mets would be gravy. Putting Parnell into the mix now would beneficial, as not a lot of people think the Mets are in it and thus minimizing the pressure. In other words, now would be an ideal time to give Parnell his audition. If he does well and shows he can close than you know you can trust him going into next year
If he fails then you can reconsider the position in the off-season.
If that were to happen, do you think about bringing K-Rod back and hope he behaves? ( I hope not.)
Do you look to the free agent market for a closer? The options there are thin, as the available closer pool is littered with a bunch of question marks in Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Kerry Wood, etc.
(Yes Mariano Rivera is a free agent, but do you ever see him leaving the Yankees?)
So, with the limited options available in 2011, it would behoove the Mets to save some money at the closer position and try out Parnell as their close sooner or later.
No time like the present.