Sandy Alderson has been scouring the free-agent market for a reliever with experience as a closer for most of the winter. With about two weeks before pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., he’s still without that part of his wish list.
The Mets would like insurance for Bobby Parnell. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported the right-hander is already working out at the Mets’ spring training complex. However, they’d like to have a backup plan in case he suffers a setback from his September neck surgery.
New York’s pursuit of Grant Balfour fell short, despite making an offer similar to the two-year, $12 million deal he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Anthony Rieber of Newsday points out a few reasons why Balfour decided against signing with the Mets:
The Mets made a comparable offer to Balfour, according to a baseball source, but believe he ultimately decided he prefers to live in Florida. There is no state income tax in Florida. The Rays also are a contender; the Mets hope to be one.
In addition to that, Balfour is guaranteed to be the closer for Tampa Bay, whereas that wasn’t the case in New York.
With the right-hander off the market, there are still a handful of free-agent options Alderson can consider pursuing. Here are five relievers that New York could be having internal discussions about.
Back in December, there were plenty of teams interested in acquiring Andrew Bailey. He won't be ready to pitch until this May due to shoulder surgery, but Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reported that over 15 teams contacted his agent.
Bailey took the league by storm in 2009 with the Oakland Athletics. The right-hander went 6-3 with a 1.84 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 91 strikeouts and 26 saves in 83.1 innings pitched. This performance earned him an All-Star nod and the American League Rookie of the Year award.
He’s been prone to injury since his breakout season, not completing a full year since. His last two years with the Boston Red Sox have been filled with injuries, and the organization decided to nontender him.
With 89 career saves over a five-year career, the experience as a closer is not an issue. After two frustrating seasons, getting nontendered and still being available at this point in the winter, what he’d cost wouldn’t be an issue, either.
It would be surprising if teams haven’t already offered Bailey minor league deals, as there is a low risk, but potential for high reward if he’s healthy. My speculation would be he’s holding out for a big league deal and could possibly wait until he’s fully healthy to prove he’s worthy of one.
With a slight concern about Bobby Parnell heading into 2014, Alderson would likely want his insurance policy to be more dependable.
Another injured reliever from Boston’s 2013 squad, Joel Hanrahan is also looking for a job this upcoming season. A two-time All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he struggled in nine appearances for the Red Sox before having season-ending surgery.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors tweeted that Hanrahan is ahead of schedule in his rehab and plans to audition for a contract sometime this spring. The Mets should be in attendance for this showcase, even if they have come to an agreement with another reliever.
If healthy, Hanrahan could be a terrific option for late-game situations. From 2011 through 2012, he posted an ERA below 2.50 with 128 strikeouts and 76 saves in 128.1 innings pitched. Even if he grabs a major league deal after his showcase this spring, he’ll be looking to rebuild his value for next winter when he’s available again. Therefore, he would be cheap.
Having Hanrahan in the Mets bullpen would give them another hard-throwing right-hander who is not only comfortable pitching in the eighth and ninth innings, but did it at an All-Star level. With the number of young arms in New York’s farm system, the Mets could roll the dice by waiting for this tryout and bid for Hanrahan’s services if they think he’d be a good fit.
MLB Trade Rumors reported at the start of the January that no deal was close for Kyle Farnsworth, but six to eight teams have shown an interest in him. Overall, his three years with the Tampa Bay Rays were successful (3.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 95 strikeouts in 114.1 innings), but an inconsistent 2013 led to his release in August.
Days after losing his job, he was signed by the Pirates and finished the year strong to build his value a bit heading into winter. After posting a 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 39 appearances for the Rays, Farnsworth put together a 1.04 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in nine games for Pittsburgh.
He could fit the mold of what LaTroy Hawkins provided last year better than anyone else on this list. He has plenty of experience with 15 years in the big leagues. While he’s only collected 54 saves during that time, he’s finished 277 games and has appeared in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning 770 times out of his 858 career appearances.
Entering his age-38 season, the tall right-hander can still bring the heat with a mid-90s fastball, according to Brooks Baseball. He made $1.25 million last season for the Rays, and his availability at this point in the winter could put him in line for the same salary or slightly less in 2014.
Farnsworth hasn’t been connected to the Mets in any rumors, but it’s an option worth consideration with the market thinning.
The most prominent reliever left on the free-agent market, Rodney would be a tremendous upgrade to New York’s bullpen. After a 2012 season in which he posted an insane 0.60 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 76 strikeouts and 48 saves for the Rays in 74.2 innings pitched, he came back down to Earth in 2013.
The right-hander compiled a 3.38 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 82 strikeouts and 37 saves in 66.2 innings pitched. The only issue for Rodney is his control. It’s always been a point of discussion over his career, as he sports a 4.5 BB/9 over 11 years in the majors. He posted a career-best 1.8 BB/9 in 2012, but saw that rise back up to a 4.9 mark last season.
It makes sense that the Mets would show some interest in Rodney after not acquiring Balfour. If they had enough financial flexibility to offer Balfour $12 million (or around that) over two years, then they could use those funds to pursue Rodney.
However, the Mets aren’t the only team interested in him. The Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles are also in pursuit of Rodney, per Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown. Each of these teams would likely make him the full-time closer if a deal is reached, whereas New York would be offering him a job primarily as the setup man.
With Rodney entering his age-37 season and still a legitimate closer, it seems unlikely he’d end up with the Mets, although they can’t be faulted for checking in with him.
During December’s winter meetings, rumors started flying that the Mets were interested in the recently nontendered Mitchell Boggs, reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Their interest makes a lot of sense; he can be signed to a minor league deal and has the potential to be a significant contributor in the major leagues.
From 2010 through 2012, Boggs was an important part of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. He helped them capture the 2011 World Series title and had a career year in ’12, going 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 73.1 innings pitched.
When Jason Motte went on the disabled list early last season, manager Mike Matheny handed the closer role to Boggs. He proceeded to post an 11.05 ERA and 2.46 WHIP in 14.2 innings pitched, leading to a demotion to Triple-A.
He fell out of favor so quickly that he was then traded to the Colorado Rockies. Boggs also spent time with their Triple-A affiliate, but eventually made his way back to the major leagues. He compiled a 3.12 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 8.2 innings, but it wasn’t enough to convince Colorado to tender him a contract for 2014.
The upside in acquiring Boggs is clear. He has experience pitching in the eighth and ninth innings, along with recent postseason experience. Getting nontendered and still being available at the end of January would make this signing a bargain.
Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted that the Mets are now only “somewhat” interested in Boggs. However, with Balfour off the board, their interest in him could heat back up.
Matt's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo! Sports, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.