Mets 2008 Off-Season Needs: Bullpen

Here’s the post that I’ve been dreading. It seems like the task of defining a reconstruction of the Mets bullpen is almost too daunting. I won’t go into the history of the 2008 season for the Mets bullpen. Suffice it to say, it was nearly a complete disaster.

My expectations are that Joe Smith, Pedro Feliciano, Brian Stokes, and Eddie Kunz will be in the bullpen in 2009. I expect the Mets to dump Scott Schoenweiss, Aaron Heilman, and Duaner Sanchez. They’re all under contract for 2009 but should be either traded for next to nothing or released. Obviously, Billy Wagner is under contract but won’t play in a Mets uniform again due to injury. Luis Ayala will be a free agent and I don’t expect the Mets to make a major play for him to sign a deal.

Let’s start at the top of the shopping list: the Mets need a closer. The two top-tier choices are the Angels’ K-Rod and the Rockies Brian Fuentes. Clearly, K-Rod is head and shoulders above anyone else on the market this off-season. He’ll be looking for a five year deal from somebody. I hope the Mets don’t do it. He’s ultra-talented but the Mets really don’t want to get into a five year commitment to a relief pitcher. Their performance varies so wildly from year to year that it’s too difficult to predict future success levels.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Mets will be front runners for Brian Fuentes in the neighborhood of 3-years/$36 million:

Fuentes, however, could come off the board quickly because, executives say, his market of around three years at $36 million-$39 million has been established. The Mets have indicated they don’t want to pay a big salary to a new closer in addition to paying Billy Wagner , who will miss all of 2009 and whose $13 million contract is not insured. But they have determined their need is great enough and the top closer on the market, Francisco Rodriguez, might cost too much to sign.

Fuentes has 111 saves over the past four seasons, including 30 last year when he pitched to a 2.73 ERA and struck out 82 in 622/3 innings.

He does have an unorthodox delivery, however, that leads to questions about his consistency and susceptibility to injuries.

Another route that the Mets could go for a closer could be with a trade. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reports that the Marlins are expected to shop closer Kevin Gregg. He’s a big step down from Rodriguez and Fuentes but he’s only going to cost $2.5 million next season. With Wagner’s contract still on the books for 2009, the Mets may want to look at cheaper alternatives than the free agents.

The lower tier free agent options at closer would be: Eric Gagne, Eddie Guadardo, Jason Isringhausen, and Kerry Wood. It’s not a great list to choose from. Wood is pretty good but the rest of these guys will give us some major heartache during the 2009 season.

Once the closer spot on the roster is secured, there should still be three roster spots to fill in the bullpen. According the MLB Trade Rumors, the free agent market looks like this (age in parenthesis):

Jeremy Affeldt (30)
Luis Ayala (31)
Joe Beimel (32)
Joe Borowski (38)
Doug Brocail (42)
Shawn Chacon (31)
Juan Cruz (30)
Alan Embree (39) – $3MM club option for ’09
Scott Eyre (37)
Kyle Farnsworth (33)
Casey Fossum (31)
Keith Foulke (35)
Tom Gordon (41) – $4.5MM club option for ’09 with a $1MM buyout
LaTroy Hawkins (36)
Mark Hendrickson (35)
Matt Herges (39)
Bob Howry (35)
Jon Lieber (39)
Jason Johnson (35)
Damaso Marte (34) – $6MM club option for ’09 with a $0.25MM buyout
Trever Miller (36) – $2MM club option for ’09 with a $0.4MM buyout
Guillermo Mota (35)
Will Ohman (31)
Darren Oliver (38)
Chan Ho Park (36)
Horacio Ramirez (29)
Al Reyes (38)
Dennys Reyes (32)
Arthur Rhodes (39)
Juan Rincon (30)
Glendon Rusch (34)
Rudy Seanez (40)
Brian Shouse (40)
Russ Springer (40)
Mike Timlin (43)
Ron Villone (39)
David Weathers (39)
Kip Wells (32)
Matt Wise (33)
Jamey Wright (34)

Again, we’re not looking at a great list here. But Jeremy Affeldt, Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Damaso Marte, Arthur Rhodes, and Joe Beimel have some talent. I doubt that the Mets would fill all three spots with free agents. There are some arms out there that could have a positive impact on the team though.

What the Mets need to do is to avoid getting into contracts greater than two years with these guys. The three year contract for middle relievers is a killer. It rarely works out well. Look at the Schoenweiss deal that’s killing the Mets now. It’s just a bad idea. The middle relievers are so inconsistent from season to season generally that maxing out contracts at two years has to be a priority. Even if the per season salary is higher than expected, it’s better than getting into a long term commitment to a middle reliever.

Chime in with your thoughts below in the comments section.

Author: Dave Doyle

Frequently disappointed Mets fan

2 thoughts on “Mets 2008 Off-Season Needs: Bullpen”

  1. I agree with you on that whole group of keepers Dave.
    I thought it would have been a good idea to make Maine the closer. The guy has lights out stuff the first time through the order. If they could pick up a few decent free agent starters (they need to do this anyway when Perez walks and if Martinez retires), this might be able to offset losing Maine in the starting rotation. The starter free agent market looks a lot more promising than the relief market. This is assuming that Maine is healthy at the start of 2009.
    Dave, do you know how the farm looks in the middle relief area? We did get a glimpse of a few guys in September. Do you think any of them are viable closers or 8th inning type guys?


  2. I think we’ve already seen what the minors have to offer for relief work. Kunz is the guy that has some real potential for the 8th and 9th innings. Other than that we’re looking and Knight, Figueroa, Stokes, and those type of guys. They’re not bad but I certainly don’t want to see them at the back of the bullpen. Maine could be an option. But if he doesn’t work out, the Mets are totally screwed if they don’t have a good backup plan.


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