Thursday, December 11, 2008

What A Putz!

The move made to sign Francisco Rodriguez was more or less a no-brainer. And the signing was made even easier given the terms of the contract that the Mets have given him. With the Bullpen being the #1 problem that the Mets had over the past two seasons, this was a clear and necessary move. As soon as the offer seemed close to completion, the e-mails began flying around. I personally loved the move. Consider that 3 years ago, the Mets gave Billy Wagner a 4 year contract worth even more money. Now, consider that, at the time, Wagner was a 10-year veteran at age 35. Consider that Rodriguez is a playoff-tested veteran in his own right with a similar lights-out track record at age 27, and the deal is fabulous for the Mets. 3 years for a closer isn't overcommitting to Rodriguez, and the money certainly isn't a payroll-buster by any stretch of the imagination.

But that couldn't be the only move made to the Bullpen. It could only be a nice start to moving in a positive direction. Other moves would certainly be necessary. Perhaps the bigger names, Fuentes, Hoffman or Wood, would be in the mix, or if not, other, non-tendered guys would have to be brought in to push the existing names that would survive the offseason. But other moves were necessary. As I mentioned in my 2005 Capsule, it's often the names that arrive in trades that you don't necessarily consider. And late Wednesday night, Minaya and the Mets made such a move, in another brilliant deal to bring in J.J. Putz from the Seattle Mariners in a massive 3-team, 12-player deal.

Here's why I like the move:

Putz, at 32, will be the 8th inning answer. In 2007, he was clearly the best reliever in the AL, before being slowed by injuries in 2008. His talent is evident, a 97-99MPH fastball combined with a diving splitter netted him 40 saves and a 1.38 ERA in '07. He's a guy who can get out just about anyone, and not be spotted simply as a situational guy. The change of scenery from a conflicted clubhouse in Seattle to New York should only help.

I also like the spare parts the Mets got as well. Sean Green isn't someone I know much about, but he's a new face and some fresh blood to try out there. Jeremy Reed is a burner who projects as a 4th Outfielder type, but, again, a new face.

Putting Putz in front of Rodriguez (or even having Putz spell Rodriguez on certain days) gives the Mets a 1-2 punch that they simply have not had out of the bullpen in 2 years, and certainly a combination that far outdistances Heilman/Sanchez and Wagner as far as pure heat. These are guys that will, more often than not, get the job done. This was something that nobody could be counted on to do, especially as last season drew to a close. Rodriguez himself could mean a 10-win differential for the Mets. In either of the last two seasons, that would have been the difference between a Division Title and a trip home. Putz as the bridge from the starter (assuming the starter goes 7, I think you can count on that from Santana and Pelfrey on most days, Maine and whoever on certain days) should only strengthen that argument.

The Mets also could have done quite a bit of addition by subtraction in these deals as well. Gone are:

1) Aaron Heilman, who can enjoy going 8-11 with a 5.13 ERA as Seattle's 4th starter. Won't be missing him at all.

2) Joe Smith, who I would have liked to keep, but in reality, he's a situational righty in a bullpen that was comprised almost exclusively of situational guys that always backfired.

3) Endy Chavez, who I hate to see go. Endy will forever hold a place in the hearts of all Mets fans, no doubt. But in reality, you have to give up to get, and Endy Chavez wasn't going to make or break the fortunes of the 2009 Mets. Replacing Endy with Jeremy Reed is more or less a wash, plus Reed is 3 years younger. Besides, the Left Field wall in Citi Field is 16 feet high. Endy isn't going to scale that wall to rob any HRs.

4-7) Jason Vargas (Yawn), Mike Carp (Ditto), Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera (If you're at all concerned, I've linked to their Baseball Reference pages so you can see that they're not quite what you would consider a Major League prospect).

On paper, yes, the Mets look like they gave up a lot. In reality, this deal could prove to be a heist for the Mets. If nothing else, it's certainly a step in the right direction, and a good step towards completely re-inventing the nightmare that was the Mets bullpen, replacing the question marks with Winners.

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