The New York Mets have not exactly had the most active of offseasons, but many of the moves made by the team have been aimed at addressing a bullpen that finished the 2012 season with the second worst ERA in all of baseball. The Mets chose to address the problem in a fashion that has become typical of them in recent years, with low cost alternatives to the premier free agents on the market. Why pay big money for guys like Rafael Soriano, Mike Adams, Ryan Madsen, Jonathan Broxton or Joakim Soria when you can scrap together a bunch of minor league invites and reel in Pedro Feliciano, Scott Atchinson, LaTroy Hawkins, and Aaron Laffey?
Maybe as the season progresses Sandy Alderson and the Metsecutives will be reveling in the fact that they picked from the bargain bin and actually got a bargain, or maybe, as has been the case the past two seasons, the rest of the league will once again be laughing at the Mets bullpen. The strongest move New York has made to bolster the pen was the signing of Brandon Lyon, a 33-year-old righty who registered a 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 63/20 K/BB ratio over 61 innings while with Houston and Toronto last year. With Lyon, Bobby Parnell, and a healthy Frank Francisco the Mets were thought to be done with their bullpen makeover, but there’s just one problem…….Frank Francisco is never healthy.
Even when Franky Frank was healthy comments earlier in the offseason from Alderson suggested the Mets weren’t comfortable entering the season with him as their closer, despite the public support of manager Terry Collins. The team was even said to have interest in former Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde, or someone of his caliber, to come in and compete with Francisco for 9th inning duties. After an exaggerated report that Papa Grande was close to a deal with the Miami Marlins, his name has seldom been heard this month until Ken Davidoff of the New York Post suggested today that the Wilpons pony up and bring in the 34-year-old to help solidify late inning duties.
Since Fred Wilpon just announced to the world he’s debt-free and ready to spend, well … here’s a free agent for the taking who could help immediately:
The door remains “slightly ajar” for free agent Jose Valverde to join the Mets as their closer, an industry source told The Post.
As with the Mets’ pursuit of Michael Bourn, you bet against this actually happening. But this is considerably less complicated than the Bourn endeavor.
There’s no draft compensation tied to Valverde, and nowhere as much money as Bourn required to sign; both players are represented by Scott Boras. Valverde, who recorded 35 saves in 2012 and 110 over the past three seasons with Detroit — the most in baseball over that time span — would require just a one-year contract.
The source said the Mets view Valverde, who turns 35 next month, as “a 5 out of 10.” Yet it’s not like the current Mets bullpen is full of 8s and 9s.
I’m not too sure Valverde is on the Mets radar at this point as the team seems to be backing Bobby Parnell as their closer now that injury (elbow inflammation) has once again befallen Francisco. However, as Davidoff points out, Valverde may actually be able to serve as the unlikeliest of mentors for someone like Parnell:
Valverde’s greatest strength might be Parnell’s biggest question mark. Parnell admitted Wednesday in a session with reporters he has struggled in the past with being the Mets’ “last line of defense” as the closer. That isn’t an issue with Valverde.
“He has a closer’s mentality,” Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers general manager, said of Valverde in a telephone interview. “He knows how to close a game.” Valverde posted the highest save percentage (93.2) during his three-year stay with the Tigers, blowing just eight regular-season opportunities, as noted by ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland spoke passionately to reporters on Thursday about Valverde, lamenting his former closer’s current unemployment. Leyland touted Valverde to his longtime friend, Terry Collins, the Mets’ manager, during the winter meetings in Nashville.
Leyland’s efforts reflect Valverde’s popularity in baseball circles. You usually don’t get the nickname “Papa Grande,” without being a good teammate. Veteran LaTroy Hawkins, a strong candidate to win a Mets bullpen job, played with Valverde in Houston in 2008 and 2009.
“He’s always happy,” Hawkins said. “Even when things didn’t go right for him on the field, he still had that positive vibe. He was never up and down. He always had a steady keel.”
It seems like a low-risk, wait-and-see venture for the Mets. Unless, of course, Valverde rebounds for another team and the Mets’ bullpen implodes once again
The funny thing is that the cynical side of me thought that Valverde belonged in a Mets uniform as soon as I saw him collapse in the playoffs last year. I mean any guy who can meltdown like that on such and epic scale had to be in a Mets uniform. I even joked about it on Twitter with @vinnycartiglia, but here’s the thing, I WAS JOKING!
Obviously Valverde won’t come close to approaching that kind of money, so maybe bringing him on with a 1-year deal will prove a low-risk/high-reward type move. The risk is relative though as I’m sure many teams are wondering just how healthy Valverde is after seeing him limited to essentially throwing just one pitch throughout the playoffs last year. MLB.com did a great job of breaking down Valverde’s late season struggles in the video clip below and pointed out that concern over the relievers health is warranted.
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