A Closer Who Fits With The Mets

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The Twins declined their $12.5 million, 2012 option on closer Joe Nathan and will pay him a $2 million buyout. Twins GM Bill Smith has said that the Twins want Nathan back.

But not so fast.

While in some cases, the teams who have declined an option or traded a player would indeed be “interested” in bringing said player back (see Roy Oswalt and the Phillies or Carlos Beltran with the Mets), it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to pay the amount of money required to get them; so said interest is similar to me saying I’d like to travel into space—technically I could do it, but I don’t have the money to spare nor the intense desire to do so.

The Twins would have the cash available to bring Nathan back and are desperately in need of a closer with both Nathan and Matt Capps on the free agent market, but since they’ve already declined the option, Nathan will be in heavy demand as a moderate risk, massive reward for a short term 1-2-year deal.

The Mets need a veteran closer (they’re not going into the season with uncertainty at multiple positions again) and Nathan grew up on Long Island; went to Stony Brook University; and was a Mets fan growing up.

Nathan’s about to turn 37 and got off to a poor start in 2011 after missing all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery; he wound up back on the disabled list twice with a strained right flexor tendon related to his recovery, but as the summer wore on and he regained the closer’s role from the struggling Capps, he also regained some semblance of the form that made him one of baseball’s top short relievers for many years.

From July on he was mostly reliable and his strikeout numbers were solid (about 1 per inning); his velocity was consistently around 92 all season; and while he’s not what he was in his heyday, he’s a veteran who wouldn’t be intimidated by pitching in New York.

He couldn’t pitch on back-to-back days in 2010, so the Mets would likely have to have someone else capable of doing the job at least part of the time—they can have a spring training competition between Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta and scour the market for pitchers who’ve been non-tendered; but with Nathan two years out from surgery, he’s a worthwhile gamble on an incentive laden deal to make a comeback at home with the Mets.


Considering Isringhausen

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Should the Mets think about Jason Isringhausen as closer for 2012?

Almost a month ago when they traded Francisco Rodriguez, Isringhausen was considered the veteran stopgap before they decided what they were really going to do. Most of the focus centered around Bobby Parnell, but Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta and Ryota Igarashi have all gotten long looks in innings prior to the ninth. Beato had a chance to close a game but a failed double play necessitated the use of Tim Byrdak to finish.

Would Isringhausen be an inexpensive, veteran option to start the season in 2012?

His arm is duct-taped together and he’s about to turn 39; his numbers are mediocre if you take them at face value; but he’s been a good-humored leader in the clubhouse; has done everything asked of him; has pitched well enough that if age and injury-history weren’t factored in, he’d be an obvious choice to stay and continue in the role. He strikes out a fair amount of hitters and throws strikes; there would be a seamless transition once they move on to someone else.

His stuff isn’t as impressive as K-Rod’s was, but what I call the “aggravation factor” (no, it’s not a stat) is diminished with Isringhausen. You pretty much know what you’re getting—he allows a homer here and there; is going to blow a few games; and doesn’t get in trouble just for the sake of it as K-Rod does—and for the most part, will do his job.

There will be numerous closer-types available next season, but given what the Mets front office believes, they’re not going to overpay for a mediocrity when they could find someone from within who’d do the same job at a lower salary; nor are they going to spend the money and draft picks for a Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell; they’re not going to trade the exorbitant player-price demanded for Joakim Soria.

Parnell is too inconsistent to be trusted as a set-up man, so using him as a closer could be disastrous especially to start a season; the others are question marks and the Mets have no young minor league fireballer like the Braves did with Craig Kimbrel.

Would the Mets be better off taking a chance on a Brad Lidge or Fernando Rodney than Isringhausen? By digging through the scrapheap to find another arm the way they did with him and Beato?

If they’re going to do that, they should just keep Izzy.

Such a thought would’ve been seen as ridiculous a few weeks ago, but given what’s out there and the way this Mets team is being rebuilt, it’s not so ridiculous anymore.


Poof!!! Alderson Makes K-Rod Disappear From The Mets

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Baseball GM.


Somehow, some way Mets GM Sandy Alderson got rid of Francisco Rodriguez and his onerous contract without having to eat a significant chunk of it.

He even got two players to be named later back from the Brewers in exchange for K-Rod.

It’s pure genius.

Not genius in the crafted and farcical Moneyball sense of the word, but in a practical application of what needed to be done to make the Mets better in a timely fashion.

In part because of the onerous $17.5 million contract option that was in serious jeopardy of being activated if and when he finished 55 games this season (and was deemed healthy—evidently physically and not mentally); that the club loathed him for his inexplicable assault on his father-in-law in the Citi Field family room last August; and that they have to see what they have in Bobby Parnell as a closer, K-Rod had to go.

Did the pitcher’s decision to fire agent Paul Kinzer and hire Scott Boras have anything to do with Alderson acting so decisively in getting rid of him two weeks before the trading deadline? Possibly. Boras was already saber-rattling with demands as to where K-Rod wanted to go via trade even though his contract only stipulated 10 teams to whom he couldn’t be traded without his consent. The Brewers weren’t on the list. Boras is going to have a say in what happens with Carlos Beltran when (not if) the Mets deal him as well—I doubt Alderson wanted to spend the entire month of July with Boras squawking in the newspapers, websites and in his ear.

According to Jon Heyman, the Mets tossed $5 million into the pot along with K-Rod. This greased the skids to get the deal done and may have yielded better prospects than expected. For a pitcher who was a release candidate when (again, not if) the Mets start to fade, at least they got something and didn’t have to go through the legal nightmare that undoubtedly would’ve ensued had they released K-Rod in August to prevent him from reaching the contract incentive.

Regardless of what they’re getting back, this was a great maneuver on the part of Alderson.

Jason Isringhausen will presumably get a chance to close for the next couple of weeks until he too is traded. He’s a popular player with Mets fans and is 7 saves away from 300—the number seems important to Isringhausen. The same fans reviled K-Rod and wanted him gone. Reaction to the trade has been mostly positive.

After that, we’ll see.

Will they give Parnell a chance at closing? Or will they look at Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta, Ryota Igarashi or some combination of the group?

They’ll be free to do anything. They can even use a modified bullpen-by-committee based on the matchups. None of the above-mentioned pitchers—including Isringhausen—are in a position to demand to “know their roles”, a familiar and viable lament among veteran relievers.

The Mets won’t be beholden to this concept because all of these pitchers are either journeymen or youngsters who are trying to hold onto their jobs—that more than anything is the tipping point of the failure of a bullpen-by-committee.

This trade will be perceived as the Mets giving up on the 2011 season.

But giving up on what exactly?

Did anyone really believe they were contenders?


In a division with the Phillies and Braves and 7 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead, they weren’t a factor in the playoff race with or without K-Rod. To keep with the magic-related theme, it made no sense to proffer an illusion and placate a delusional segment of the fan base, thereby harming the franchise even more for 2012 and beyond by letting K-Rod reach 55 games finished and activate his option.

It was better to make him disappear.

This was the right move all around and a master stroke from Sandy the Magician—the man who made K-Rod go POOF!! to the joy of Metsville.


Mets DFA Boyer; Recall Isringhausen And Igarashi

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What the Mets were expecting from Blaine Boyer is a mystery.

There are players for whom you look beyond their statistics and decide to give them a chance even if it’s at the expense of more proven commodities; but Boyer was a journeyman reliever with poor strikeout/control numbers before joining the Mets and that’s what he was with the Mets—beard, goatee, clean-shaven or whatever.

It made little sense to keep Boyer and run the risk of losing the younger and better Manny Acosta and letting proven veteran Jason Isringhausen retire or go to another club.

The Mets were lucky that Acosta got through waivers and is still with the organization; that Isringhausen was willing to hang around extended spring training for a couple of weeks before making a decision to retire or go to another team. Had the Mets not recalled Isringhausen, he’d shown enough that another team was going to pick him up.

In addition to Isringhausen, the Mets recalled Ryota Igarashi and optioned Lucas Duda to Triple A Buffalo—ESPN Story.

Despite struggles and injuries last season and his status as a forgotten man this spring, Igarashi has a power fastball and strikeout stuff; he showed flashes last season and has the potential to be a useful component.

I’m all in with finding journeyman-type relievers like Boyer and giving them a chance to pitch well out of the bullpen—that’s the proper way to build a bullpen inexpensively and intelligently; but it can’t be at the expense of better options; that’s exactly what Igarashi, Isringhausen and Acosta are.


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