There’s no question that the market this offseason is insane … it’s not unlike the mind-numbing moves made early in the 21st century, when people like Richard Hidalgo, Javy Vazquez, and Denny Neagle were receiving long-term, $13M per year deals.
The frightening mix of a weakly talented free agent market and highly profitable teams run by overzealous owners and GMs has created a volatile cocktail that is going to have long-term effects throughout MLB. For the short term, it means you have to overpay for bench players and middle relievers. For example, 31-year-old, career .260 hitter Mark DeRosa just received a 3-year / $12M contract, despite never establishing himself as a starting player.
Similarly, the (lack of) wisdom of Peter Angelos is causing quite a ruckus in the market, as he just signed a journeyman middle reliever (Jamie Walker) and the slumping Danys Baez to multi-year contracts for closer-like money. (OK, not Billy Wagner money, but well overpriced even for good setup men.). The O’s next target is Chad Bradford, as Jim Duquette appears to have found the Mets’ 2006 strategy book (I think he bought it on eBay) and plans to build around a strong bullpen.
Before the market for middle relievers gets any crazier, the Mets need to swoop in and sign ChadBrad. He was an integral part of their 2006 success, and with his submarining style there’s no reason to believe he’ll fall far performance-wise. In fact, he might well pitch at a strong level for the next five years. That assumed, it makes sense for the Mets to lock him up for at least two years — which he seems to be looking for — or even three.
If they don’t sign Chad, the Mets will have the following issues:
1. No chance at all for Aaron Heilman to step into the rotation.
2. Weakness in the 6th inning, and a rotation that rarely gets that far.
3. No one for Willie to call on to “bring the funk”, nor “show another look”.
4. No reason to keep Pedro Feliciano around, as there won’t be anyone to clean up the bases-loaded messes he likes to create.
If they keep Chad Bradford, the Mets will have a guy who is good enough to be in the eighth inning setup role, yet use him in the sixth and seventh (assuming Duaner Sanchez returns and Heilman stays in the ‘pen). He’s also one of the few non-closers who can get out of jams effortlessly, forcing DP grounders and weak popups. Those guys are hard to find — most are flamethrowers whose role is to close out the ninth.
Another reason Chad needs to be signed sooner rather than later, is so that the Heilman in the rotation thing can be possible. Many of the supporters of “Start Heilman” movement are well aware that recovering Sanchez minus Chad divided by suspended Mota equals bullpen for Aaron. However, with Bradford proving to be effective enough to use in the 7th, and as a backup to Dirty, the Mets could consider giving Heilman another shot at the rotation — especially if they pick up one more middle guy in the winter meetings. Yes, those of us part of the Movement are likely hoping against hope, but if Chad comes back we’ll have a shred to cling to as Omar heads to Lake Buena Vista, FL.