Jonathan Broxton has what the Mets' bullpen needs.
This is the time of year when you hear fans and experts talk about how a team "could use" this player or that player and how Player X or Player Y would really shore up Team Z's chances of making it to the World Series.
Language like this has no place in the discussion of the New York Mets' bullpen. The situation is too desperate. The Mets need bullpen help, and they stand to miss out on a postseason berth if they don't get any.
To this end, you can rest assured that Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a few ideas up his sleeve. It just so happens that one of them has found its way onto the Internet.
Broxton was one of the league's top closers back in 2009 when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as he saved 36 games while posting a 2.61 ERA and notching 114 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched. He fell on hard times in 2010, and injuries limited him to just 14 appearances in 2011.
Thus far in 2012, Broxton has saved 22 games in 26 chances with a 2.14 ERA. He's only striking out about six hitters every nine innings, but he's keeping the ball in the yard, and he still throws hard enough to blow away hitters when he needs to.
He would do nicely for the Mets in the ninth inning. All Alderson has to do is try and convince Royals GM Dayton Moore to part with Broxton, which apparently will be easier said than done. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com has reported that Broxton likes it in Kansas City and that the Royals may choose to hold on to him and try to sign him to an extension.
If Alderson does give Moore a call (assuming he hasn't already), he'll have to be careful not to reveal just how desperate he is to acquire a closer who can actually get the job done.
The closers the Mets have used this season have come up well short in that regard. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Mets relievers have a 5.66 ERA and a .273 opponents' batting average in save situations this season. They've blown 16 saves, second only to the Colorado Rockies in MLB.
Frank Francisco made things a little too adventurous when he was healthy. He only blew three saves in 21 opportunities, but he had a 5.57 ERA in save situations. Bobby Parnell has been even worse, as he's blown five saves in seven opportunities. He's blown saves in each of his last two appearances.
The struggles of the Mets' closers is a key reason why the Mets bullpen has lost a total of 19 games this season. Take away half those losses, and the Mets might be sitting on the best record in the National League.
The tragedy is that the struggles of the Mets' bullpen has come at the expense of a starting rotation that has been very good. Only three teams in baseball have gotten more quality starts this season than the Mets.
If the Mets want to make the playoffs (and why wouldn't they?), a move has to be made. What they have isn't good enough, and there's little indication that simple patience is going to fix the problem. Alderson needs to be proactive.
And he is right to target Broxton. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has reported that the Mets have considered options such as Huston Street and ex-Met Francisco Rodriguez, but Broxton stands out as an ideal option because he wouldn't be too pricey ($4 million salary this season) and because he's a closer with both experience and stuff.
In other words, exactly what the Mets need.
Is Broxton as good now as he was back in 2009? Most certainly not. According to FanGraphs, Broxton's fastball averaged over 97 miles per hour that season, and he had a 14.5 swinging-strike rate. This season, his fastball is checking in at an average just below 95 miles per hour, and his swinging-strike rate is down to 5.8 percent.
Is Broxton the best option for the Mets?
What Broxton is proving this year is that he doesn't need strikeout stuff in order to get hitters out. Hitters may be hitting him at a .260 clip, but the hits he's given up have been mainly singles. Opponents are slugging just .333 against him.
To put that in perspective, hitters have slugged .430 off of Mets relievers in save situations this year.
So it almost goes without saying that Broxton would be an upgrade over what the Mets currently have. And make no mistake, the Mets aren't making the playoffs unless they acquire an upgrade for the ninth inning.
The postseason is already slipping away. The Mets were in second place and just 4.5 games out of first place in the NL East as recently as July 7, but have since fallen to third place and a full seven games out of first place. They've lost five games in a row, and a couple of those losses could have been avoided if only they had a competent closer.
Even the wild card race is slipping away from them. The Mets have fallen 3.5 games off the pace.
Broxton is not Mariano Rivera (or these days, Craig Kimbrel), but he's certainly competent. Alderson should go get him while the getting's good.
If he does nothing in the next couple of weeks, he'll effectively be waving a white flag. That's not something he wants to try to rationalize to the team's fanbase, which has had to put up with a little bit too much nonsense in the last couple years.
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