Free Agent Targets: Relief Pitchers
The MLBPA compiled a full list of players who filed for free agency this offseason. Out of those, there are several possibilities that stood out to me as players I would consider signing if I were the GM of the Mets (assuming I had a moderate amount of money to spend). Mind you, I’m not saying the Mets should sign ALL of these players – that would be impossible. But this would be the pool of players from which I would choose.
We’ll break them down by position. In the last post, I looked at starting pitchers. In this post, I’ll take a look at…
The Mets bullpen had another poor season statistically in 2013, but a lot of their failure came from a few sources, like Brandon Lyon, Rob Carson, Greg Burke, and Josh Edgin (during his first stint in the majors).
The back end of the bullpen looks promising with the emergence of Bobby Parnell in the closer’s role. Vic Black, acquired from the Pirates for John Buck and Marlon Byrd, is young power arm who may be ready to handle the eighth inning. Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia also have a world of potential if they can figure out how to find the strikezone on a consistent basis. From the left side, Scott Rice held same-sided batters to a .174 batting average (although right-handed hitters crushed him), and Edgin was much improved in his second stint in the majors before going down with a season-ending injury.
With Parnell recovering from a neck injury, and with the relative lack of experience behind him, the Mets will need some veteran depth in the ‘pen. Here are some free agents that may be a good fit.
Joe Smith, 29, RHP – Smith is a sidearmer who is effective against both right-handed and left-handed batters. In his career, he’s held righties to a .218/.298/.307 slash line, and lefties to a .248/.346/.371 mark. He has a fastball and a changeup that tail away from left-handed batters, and a slider that runs away from righties. He began his MLB journey with the Mets in 2007, and was largely effective as a ground-ball pitcher. In his last three years as a Cleveland Indian, he’s averaged 71 appearances per season, a 2.42 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 160 ERA+. He’s expressed a desire to stay with the Indians, but if he hits the open market, he’d be a good match for the Mets. Last year, he made $3.15 million.
Brian Wilson, 31, RHP – The eccentric former closer for the San Francisco Giants had a great bounceback year as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His fastball hovered in the mid-90s, and he put up excellent numbers in 18 appearances. He had a 0.66 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and struck out 8.6 batters per 9 innings in a small sample. Wilson has had two Tommy John surgeries – one in college and one in 2012, which could mean he has a mechanical flaw that makes him a further injury risk. Also, Wilson comes with an offbeat, sideshow personality that could turn into a distraction in a media market like New York. He’s expected to look for a 1 or 2 year deal worth about $7 million per season.
Chad Qualls, 35, RHP – After a disastrous 2012 that included ineffective stints in Philadelphia, The Bronx, and Pittsburgh, Qualls rebounded to have a very nice year with the Miami Marlins. He had a 2.61 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 66 games. He also invented a new way of celebrating a strikeout (against the Mets, coincidentally). Given that he’s been inconsistent since 2010, he’s not guaranteed to have that kind of year again. But if he doesn’t ask for much more than the $1.15 million he made last year, he might be worth it as a useful veteran to add depth to the bullpen.
LaTroy Hawkins, 41, RHP – Old Man Hawkins refused to act his age last year in Flushing. He emerged as the primary setup man for Parnell, and when Bobby was lost for the season, took over as closer. Hawkins saved 13 games for the Mets and compiled a 2.93 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His fastball velocity was a lively 94-96 MPH, even at the end of the season. Hawkins made the most appearances – and piled up the most innings – than he had since 2004. He looks like he still has more left in the tank, and would be worth bringing back on a 1-year deal. Any more than that is still a gamble for a relief pitcher anyone in their 40s, even if they’re still performing at a high level. LaTroy will look to get a raise following his 1-year, $1 million contract in 2013.
Fernando Rodney, 37, RHP – His hat faces first base while his pitches travel toward home plate, and he celebrates by shooting an imaginary arrow toward the heavens. Almost out of nowhere, the Tampa Bay closer was nearly untouchable in 2012, saving 48 games with an immaculate 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. He came back down to Earth – and his career averages – in 2013, although he still saved 37 games and struck out a career-high 11.1 batters per 9 innings. Chances are the Mets will pass on him, since they already have a closer under team control, and Rodney will most likely not settle for a setup role. But he’s worth kicking the tires on, unless he’s asking for a long term deal and closer’s money.
Coming up next: Free agent outfielders