Adam Rubin has the Mets casting a wide net for bullpen help, and that certainly makes sense. Sandy Alderson isn’t confident about Frank Francisco at closer, nor should he be. And the group as a whole needs some more givens.
Last season’s 29th ranked group in both ERA and (they came by it honestly) xFIP has added only 40-year-old Latroy Hawkins, oft-injured Sean Atchison, and Pedro Feliciano, who hasn’t pitched in two years. Earlier this offseason, minor leaguers like Greg Burke (who I like, but is a lottery ticket) were among the few acquisition.
These new targets, you’ve heard of. That doesn’t make them great, but let’s rank ’em so we know what the Mets might be getting:
1. Brandon Lyon: Coming off of a season with an ERA of 3.10, brought about thanks to solid peripherals (3.1 walks per nine, 9.3 strikeouts per nine) and no platoon split whatsoever, Lyon is a perfect candidate to add a given to this bullpen. Cross your fingers.
2. Francisco Rodriguez: Sure, his tenure in New York ended badly, what with the assaulting and the trade he didn’t want but got because of his agent’s incompetence. But even in a down season, K-Rod still managed a strikeout per inning, 3.9 walks per nine, and a reasonable xFIP of 3.71. Make him a closer, and there’s a good chance you get a better season than he gave Milwaukee as an unhappy setup man. Unfortunately, though, as Rubin reports, K-Rod may cost too much. (Surprised?)
3. Roy Oswalt: His 2012 wasn’t pretty. He pitched to a 5.80 ERA out of the bullpen. But look closer: his strikeout per inning/1.7 walks per nine innings suggests a guy who is far better than that. His xFIP? 3.27. Alas, sounds like Oswalt doesn’t want to close. And look, the guy beaned Cliff Floyd, so don’t lose any sleep over not rooting for him.
4. Jose Valverde: Oh dear lord, this can’t really be possible, right? Valverde is a PROVEN CLOSER, obscuring the fact that he wasn’t good at all last year, nor, by the playoffs, considered such a proven closer. His strikeout rate dipped from 8.6 to 6.3 per nine. His xFIP jumped to 5.01. To put that in perspective, Francisco’s was 4.10 in his lost 2012. But because he’s a PROVEN CLOSER, he’ll get some guaranteed money.
I’m willing to bet he makes more in 2013 than Scott Hairston does. Neither guy was a long-term answer to anything. But Hairston, at least, solved some issues the roster has (right-handed power, ability to split time with lefties in the outfield). Incidentally, you probably could have rotated Hairston from right to left field and given him the playing time that was apparently an issue.
But Valverde? He is only a solution to making Frank Francisco look good by standing next to him.
Oh, and Bobby Parnell is probably a better closer in 2013 than any of these guys. But the bullpen needs help beyond Parnell, and if shifting Parnell to a sub-optimal role gets the Mets another reliever who can help, like Lyon or K-Rod, I’m for it.
Rounding out the group:
5. Kevin Gregg: Like Valverde, without the same price tag or pre-2012 level of success.
6. Brian Wilson: Could help at some point, but Mets need bullpen arms who can give them innings soon, and his last session, without proper velocity, suggests that isn’t realistic early on in the season, at the very least.