The Mets’ top offseason priority is to re-sign Jose Reyes. Regardless of how that turns out, the next thing on their to-do list is to acquire a closer. During the year so much of the attention was on making sure that the expensive 2012 option on Francisco Rodriguez did not vest that everyone forgot about the performance that K-Rod gave the Mets.
In save situations, Rodriguez was 23-for-26 before he was dealt to the Brewers. Without Rodriguez in the second half, the Mets blew seven games in the ninth inning. Jason Isringhausen did a decent job when he was the team’s closer but Bobby Parnell proved himself not ready for prime time. The hard-throwing youngster blew four saves. Parnell matched K-Rod’s total of three blown saves, accumulated over three-and-a-half months, in an eight-day stretch between September 3rd and September 10th.
It’s very much to be determined if Isringhausen will be back in 2012. It would be a giant leap of faith to install Parnell as the closer after what he did in his first exposure to the job last year. The only other reliever on the staff to even consider as a closer would be Manny Acosta. This is the same Acosta that the Mets found so lacking on Opening Day that they exposed him to waivers in order to keep Blaine Boyer. If Parnell is a long-shot to be the Mets’ closer in April, then we have to come up with a new term to describe the odds against Acosta getting the job.
But, while the Mets are in serious need of a closer, is it worth it to pay big bucks for a closer for a team that seems at least a year away from serious playoff consideration? On top of that, is it worth sacrificing a high draft pick as compensation for an elite free agent closer? It’s easy to imagine for Sandy Alderson the answer to that is “no” for both questions.
So, are there any relievers who would are not Type A free agents who could be upgrades on Parnell/Acosta, if not Isringhausen? Let’s take a look at some potential closers for the 2012 Mets. All free agent designations come courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors, which reverse engineers the Elias rankings. Remember, a player who is a Type B free agent nets his team a compensation draft pick, but that does not come from the team who signs him.
Jonathan Broxton (Type B) – He hasn’t been good since 2009, but he still has name value. While that may have been significant for previous GMs, it’s unlikely Alderson pays a premium for that.
Frank Francisco (Type B) – Had a 9.41 K/9 mark last year. Hurt by the long ball but generally did a solid job for the Blue Jays as he picked up 17 saves, including six in September, and posted a 3.35 xFIP. Made $4 million last year.
Jason Frasor (Type B) – Hard thrower with a solid K rate, Frasor allows more walks than you would prefer from your closer. His BB/9 has been over 3.50 in four of the past five years, including a 3.90 mark last year.
Brad Lidge (Type B) – Hasn’t been good since 2008. Lidge has battled injuries and control problems the past three years. He has allowed 71 BB in 123.2 innings over the past three seasons. Yet you still hear people clamor for the Mets to sign him.
Joe Nathan (No compensation) – Was not his dominating self last year but it was his first year back after Tommy John surgery. His velocity has mostly returned but his fastball was a below-average pitch last year according to the linear weights Pitch Type Value over at Fan Graphs. He has more upside than Broxton or Lidge but will likely command more money, too.
Chad Qualls (No compensation) – After a dismal 2010 season, Qualls turned in a useful season as a middle reliever last year. However, he had just a 5.21 K/9. He gets ground balls and doesn’t give up a lot of walks. If his strikeout rate can bounce back, he would make a very nice pickup.
Jon Rauch (Type B) – At 6’10, he would fit in with the other tall pitchers that the Mets had on their roster in 2011. But Rauch’s average fastball velocity dipped below 90 last year for the first time and the pitch was a below-average offering. He really struggled with the long ball last year, too.
Kerry Wood (Type B) – He can still light up the radar guns but he’s throwing more and more cutters as the years go by. Is probably going to end up back in Chicago, where he feels comfortable.
Joel Zumaya – Speaking of guys who light up the gun, Zumaya could give Parnell a run for his money for hardest thrower. But like Parnell, Zumaya has never been able to enjoy a full, productive season in the majors. He had the best walk rate of his career last year but his overall numbers were slanted due to a microscopic HR rate. Still, he has more potential than the more well-known names on this list.
Who do you think Alderson should target from the above list?