Maybe it is all the election year discussions, but it seems necessary to me to write an endorsement of Bobby Parnell as the Mets’ closer. I believe he is not merely the right choice for the Mets during Frank Francisco’s absence, but even once Francisco returns.
Consider that this season, throwing a new repertoire of fastball and knuckle curveball, Bobby Parnell has posted an xFIP of 3.08. That’s not only a run better than Francisco’s 2012 xFIP of 4.15, it is better than any single-season total of Francisco’s career.
This is not to suggest that Francisco can’t help a bullpen. But within the admittedly small sample size of one half season, Parnell has pitched better than Francisco ever has.
And if the argument for 2012 alone isn’t enough for you, consider what the two pitchers mean to the organization long-term.
Francisco is signed through 2013 at $6 million per season. If the Mets are in the race, they certainly have no business trading one of the few bullpen parts they have who can get outs. But Francisco would be an appealing trade target if the Mets fade, and can also be dealt this winter if the Mets decide to go in a different direction with their bullpen-say, if Jenrry Mejia adjusts to the role at Triple-A, or they simply want to bring in a number of inexpensive options while allocating the Francisco salary elsewhere.
Now consider, within that framework, the value of Parnell as closer. They’d have cost certainty at an often expensive position where money is seldom well-spent. Parnell isn’t eligible for arbitration until after 2013, at the earliest, and not for free agency until 2016. He’s 27, so by the time he’d become expensive enough and experienced enough to warrant a large payday, the Mets would probably want to cut bait and go younger at closer, anyway.
There’s a developmental and financial sweet spot here, if they can get Bobby Parnell successful at closing games.
Remember, last year’s struggles took place with a different Parnell, pitching-wise. This is the kind of experiment they should have been trying from the start. If Parnell succeeds in a role thrust upon him due to injury, the Mets should accept this piece of good luck and make the most of it.
Bobby Parnell, 2012. For closer. For the Mets. For the future.