Free Agent Relief: Thin Market

It’s no grand discovery that the 2007 Mets bullpen sprung some leaks. We’ve gone over it here (and here) and it’s been beaten to death by every pundit, sportswriter, and blogger covering the Mets.

Obviously, the Mets will take steps this winter to shore up the bullpen. Presumably, they’d start by checking out the free-agents available. Unfortunately, it won’t take long to peruse — it’s a thin market.

I’ve gone over the potential free agent list a dozen times, thinking maybe I missed something. But every time I look, I see the same so-so names.


I could be wrong, but I simply don’t see the Mets shelling out closer money for an 8th-inning guy. And if I’m wrong, I also don’t see a potential closer taking a setup role. But, I’ve been wrong before, so here are the closers who could potentially be on the market (in no particular order):

  • Eric Gange
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Joe Nathan
  • Armando Benitez
  • Jason Isringhausen
  • Todd Jones
  • Bob Wickman
  • Joe Borowski
  • Octavio Dotel (doh-TEEL, if Rickey returns)
  • Francisco Cordero
  • Al Reyes

Mo’s not coming, forget it. There’s a better chance of Benitez returning than Izzy, so forget that idea as well. The Twins have an option on Nathan, so cross him off too. Todd Jones is turning into Bob Wickman, and Wickman was a free bird who the Mets passed on. Gagne and Dotel are both health questions, and Gagne has flopped in the setup role for Boston. Regardless, I like Dotel, but he has the option to return to the Braves. Cordero is going to get serious closer money from someone, to be a closer. I love Joe Borowski — used to catch for him in the offseasons — but that doesn’t cloud my opinion that he is Bayonne’s version of Bob Wickman. And he’ll probably find a team who wants him to close (in addition, the Indians have an option for ’08 which they may exercise). Al Reyes? Please. Like Borowski, he’s 37 and “closer” to 40 than being a reliable setup man. Plus, Tampa Bay has an option on Reyes for next year. It’s possible Mo, Gagne, and the ‘cisco kid will be the only legit closers on the market — which can’t hurt their contract demands.

Setup Relievers

  • Scott Linebrink
  • Joel Pineiro
  • Antonio Alfonseca
  • Shawn Chacon
  • Scott Eyre
  • Jeremey Affeldt
  • Doug Brocail
  • LaTroy Hawkins
  • Matt Herges
  • Jorge Julio
  • Roberto Hernandez
  • Byung-Hyun Kim
  • David Riske
  • Rudy Seanez
  • Tanyon Sturtze
  • Russ Springer
  • Julian Tavarez
  • Luis Vizcaino
  • Mike Timlin
  • Scott Williamson
  • Jay Witasick
  • Troy Percival
  • Kerry Wood

Riske, Tavarez, Pineiro, and Hawkins have options for ’08, so they might not be available. Linebrink is the best of the bunch, and isn’t nearly the pitcher he was two years ago — yet he’ll get paid for his past performance and not his more recent struggles. If Timlin doesn’t retire I’d think he’ll return to Boston. Likewise, I can’t see Wood not re-signing with Chicago — and if not, his health makes him a big question mark. Sturtze would have been a great pickup if Joe Torre hadn’t gotten to him first; he spent the entire year on the DL after rotator cuff surgery (the Braves picked up the tab). Vizcaino is a nice pitcher, but … oh, there’s that Torre again — I’ll pass, since anyone leaving the Yankee pen is an injury waiting to happen.

Affeldt has been on the Mets’ radar for seemingly forever (the Royals once demanded Jose Reyes or David Wright for him). But that was back when he threw in the mid-90s; he barely cracks 88 these days — he’s basically a younger, taller version of Scott Schoeneweis. Chacon might be worth a look — but I doubt he’ll be a bargain based on the tiny bit of success he enjoyed a few years ago. Witasick’s ERA was 5.17 this past year, yet he looks better than Alfonseca, dontcha think? Lots of people like Scott Williamson, perhaps remembering the 1999-2002 version. The 2007 model — like most years since the good ‘ol days — was injury riddled; he appeared in 14 games for the Orioles. That brings us to the return of Jorge Julio. Hey, why not?


  • J.C. Romero
  • Eddie Guardado
  • Aaron Fultz
  • Joey Eischen
  • Mike Myers
  • Ron Villone
  • Ron Mahay
  • Ray King
  • Trever Miller
  • Joe Kennedy

A lot of LOOGYs this winter, eh? If MLB decides to expand the roster to 30 men, it might be worth signing a few of them. By the way, Fultz, Guardado, and Myers have options for ’08 — not that it matters.

The above three groups were the best names I found on the free-agent list, but you are welcome to go through it yourself and let me know who I missed. I purposely omitted such future HOFers as Mike DeJean, Ricardo Rincon, Scott Sauerback, Dan Kolb, and several others for what should be obvious reasons. Also left off my personal favorite, Scott Strickland, because he was available all season long and the Mets weren’t interested.

Unless I missed someone, there isn’t a whole lot to excited about. Outside of the closers, the only arms I’d have taken for this year would have been Linebrink, Eyre, Vizcaino, Wood, Dotel, Pineiro (who could have been picked up for a song), and Romero (see: Pineiro). As for the rest, I’d have preferred to take my chances with, say, Steve Schmoll or Carlos Muniz.

Again, there are a few decent names — Linebrink, Vizcaino, Dotel jump out — but because of the lack of quality their prices will be sky high (that means committed years in addition to cash). Taking a look at the starting pitchers with the idea of finding a potential conversion, and there is nothing (Bruce Chen? Tony Armas? yuck).

Either the Mets are going to have to pony up SERIOUS dough for one of the closers, overpay for one of the top-top setup guys, or pick a name out of a hat and hope he turns out to be another Chad Bradford-type renaissance man. A trade is almost out of the question — anyone worth trading for, would have to be pried away with an overvalued package.

Bottom line? Omar has his work cut out for him in trying to patch up the bullpen.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn October 4, 2007 at 5:46 pm
    Thin? I see a TON of players i would choose in lieu of asking mota and Sele back. Indeed I would deal Wags if joe Nathan could be signed.
  2. joe October 4, 2007 at 6:03 pm
    Better than Mota or Sele isn’t saying much. And I don’t see a TON of guys who definitely would be better options — though I see plenty of guys who are DIFFERENT and could be just as bad, maybe better, or possibly worse. Byung-Hyun Kim? Alfonseca? Julio? Seanez? Kennedy? There’s a lot of garbage out there.

    I see a lot of question marks. I suppose I’m focusing on guys to come in for the sixth, seventh and eighth — and though Mota saw (way too much) time in those spots this year, I don’t see him being given that opportunity next year. He has another year, and is cheap, so maybe he’ll be the mopup man, or depth in AAA.

    Nathan’s option will get picked up, or they’ll sign him to an extension. I don’t think Wagner’s role is the one to be worried about — we could get Mo Rivera, but the problem is getting the ball into the ninth.

  3. isuzudude October 4, 2007 at 8:05 pm
    I still don’t understand what the major hang-up is with Russ Springer. He’s no a ROOGY as previously reported. Just check out the numbers vs lefties:

    ’07: 18.2 IP, 17 K, .235 BA
    ’06: 20.1 IP, 13 K, .253 BA
    ’05: 25 IP, 23 K, .209 BA

    Though the frequency has diminished, the effectiveness has not. And Joe, the fact that you dismiss him without thought shows you how under-the-radar he is and, perhaps, how inexpensive he may come. I’m not asking him to step in as our 8th inning setup man. Heck, if Heilman is retained and Sanchez comes back healthy, he becomes our 6th inning situational righty…not bad for a guy of his caliber and his ability to get the lefties out as well.

    If there’s a diamond in the rough, Springer is it.

  4. joe October 4, 2007 at 10:34 pm
    Maybe I should be more open about Springer. I guess I’m down on him because he’s 39 years old and had a career ERA over five before this past season. But perhaps he’s like a fine wine, and simply needed fifteen years to mature.

    However, this from MLB Trade Rumors: “Additionally, it seems Cards reliever Russ Springer has scrapped retirement plans and would like to come back in 2008. It’s known that Springer has his son attending a specific school in St. Louis and would like to keep him there. So look for the Cards to ink him for $3MM or so. Surely he could get a two-year deal on the open market, so the length will depend on Springer’s plans.”

    With Walt Jocketty gone, maybe Springer won’t be part of the plans. His numbers being suddenly excellent is quite fishy, and wonder if it is the mysterious “Dave Duncan Effect” that also made Jeff Weaver, Joel Pineiro, and Jeff Suppan suddenly fabulous.

    Can you blame me for being suspicious and pessimistic about a guy who was mostly awful for 14 years, then has a career year at age 38?

    Though, I do like his infatuation with plunking Barry Bonds.

  5. sincekindergarten October 5, 2007 at 3:42 am
    As long as we shed Mota, I’d be willing to give Springer a chance. But, you know what’s going to happen? Mota will be on the team out of ST, and he’ll blow a game or two. Then, not only is it on Mota, but Randolph for using him, and Omar for signing him. As we saw this year, one game could have enormous implications in September. At that point, it’s up to Mota, a known ‘roid abuser, to do the “honorable” thing and ask for his release. There’s a better chance of me being the Opening Day pitcher for the Mets.
  6. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 8:58 am
    Please forgive me I really dont take a ton of time to investigate your luxurious writings,
    Thus usually the qualifying remarks: in the previous yr, Omar tried to get McDonald (now CWS) and Affeldt (now Rockies), he got JJ, now with Dbacks. He has also previously fished bradford and Mota.

    On the list here are my candidates. Note several teams will decline options (note St Lou and Minn have new GMsand likely new directions). also teams will non tender (ala Chad Bradford).
    Nathan!! Myers, springer, Hawkins, Frank Cordero, Vizcaino.

    I am positive mota is out. Plus I believe Heilman gets traded…but i say that every year. I also think the Yanks could be persuaded to take Billy Wagner (4 humberto Sanchez?).

    obviously none of this will actually happen……………….

  7. joe October 5, 2007 at 9:44 am
    Are my writings really luxurious or just long-winded? 🙂

    Maybe the Mets will give Nathan or Cordero a Wagner-like contract to be a setup man (maybe they’ll sign A-Rod, too).

    Myers and Hawkins couldn’t be much worse than Show / Mota … probably not much better, either. I’ll take either of them to replace Sele.

    If Linebrink re-signs with the Brewers, or is too expensive, Vizcaino might be the best option. I am concerned however, that he’s already been “Proctorized” and due for a down year.

    I know Heilman’s been rumored to be traded every year, but unless the Mets received two arms in return, I don’t see it happening this winter (which means, it’ll likely happen!).

    If Mo Rivera signs with the Red Sox I think Omar should call Cashman immediately and offer Wagner for Joba ++. Hey I can dream, too.

  8. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 10:35 am
    i’m still fuming that Detroit gave up humberto sanchez for Sheffield.

    along that line if Todd jones does not go back to Detroit then they need a closer too, is Zumaya ready?

    My bet is if Mo goes (anywhere…and the NL is a great place for him), then the Yanks will inquire for Wagner since they do like big names.

  9. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 10:42 am
    also given gagne’s performance a 2 ryr incentive laden contract is not a bad idea. Plus I kinda would like to see a 2 headed closer. Wil or Frank Cordero and Gagne? Affeldt, brian Fuentes (non tender).

    If el Duque comes back I’d like him to be more of a longman-6th starter- and reliever. If he had come into that role a week earlier maybe we ARE in the playoffs……also with a quicker hook, Willie inserts him in Ollie, humber’s or Glavine’s last start. in particular Humby who was gold thru 4 innings. El duque for 2-3 innings after that and possibly we have that win.

    More on your newer posts……………….

  10. joe October 5, 2007 at 11:44 am
    The thing about El Duque and a relief role …

    1. When Willie sees a reliever get outs right away (i.e., Smith, Sosa, Mota in 2006, etc.), he tends to “Torrerize” him — run him out every day until his arm all but falls off. That’s NOT a good plan for the already fragile El Duque.

    2. I eventually came around to liking your idea of Duque doing the long man routine in the postseason. I don’t see it as a viable role during the next regular season, unless the fifth starter becomes a Jose Lima – Jeremi Gonzalez – Alay Soler carousel again. Remember we had Aaron Sele for that role, and he pitched what … once every two weeks?

    3. El Duque was hands-down the best starter the Mets had when healthy. Just like Alou was the best hitter they had when healthy. I think if you’re going to have these guys on your team, you simply have to accept the “when healthy” part and find ways to back them up. I think without Hernandez in the rotation, the Mets finish behind the Braves in 2007. Also, I don’t like the idea of weakening the already only average rotation to strengthen the ‘pen. If you know for sure we can get Johan + Colon + another starter + Glavine returning, then that’s another story.

  11. Micalpalyn October 5, 2007 at 12:46 pm
    I think if you’re going to have these guys on your team, you simply have to accept the “when healthy” part and find ways to back them up.

    in other words: Willie needs to LEARN how to use his players….ie manage so the players dont break down…………….ie platooning, and bullpen management.

  12. joe October 5, 2007 at 1:27 pm
    Mic, Willie already knows how to do that.

    1. Play all your regulars all the time except twice a month when you have those crazy Wednesday afternoon games. Then play the entire B squad.

    2. Bullpen: RHP vs. RH batters, LHP vs. LH batters.

    3. Starting pitchers: let them go until they either give up 7 runs or reach 100 pitches — whichever comes first.