Fernando Rodney on the Tampa Bay Rays.
The New York Mets offseason has been far more eventful than last year, but fans are still hungry for more. The bullpen leaves much to be desired, and signing free-agent reliever Fernando Rodney would both please the fanbase and bring stability late in games.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (h/t Matt Sullivan of SB Nation), Rodney is linked to the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. Spring training begins this month, and Rodney is one of the best relievers on the free-agent market.
Adam Rubin of ESPN reported earlier this week that the Mets are looking for a closer and that Rodney is their No. 1 target.
The Mets pursued closer Grant Balfour last month, but Balfour preferred the Tampa Bay Rays as it was "closer to his home in Clearwater, FL" according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal (h/t Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports). General manager Sandy Alderson would not have pursued Balfour if he had faith in a healthy return for current Mets closer Bobby Parnell, who suffered a herniated disk last September.
Rodney, 36, is coming off two prosperous seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. He made 48 and 37 saves in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and he had a 3.38 ERA last season. Rodney boasted an astonishingly low 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in 2012.
Prior to 2012, Rodney’s ERA and WHIP were not impressive, but aside from a 5.0 K/9 rate in his 2002 Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers, his career-low strikeout rate was 7.02 K/9. He averaged 9.16 K/9 in 2012 and 11.07 K/9 last season with a career average of 8.68 strikeouts per nine innings.
Parnell had a breakthrough 2013 with a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 22 saves. He emerged as the Mets closer and was able to mix in his breaking ball with a 100 MPH fastball to get ahead in the count. Parnell always had heat, but prior to 2013 he often faltered in the ninth inning.
Parnell has proclaimed he will be ready for Opening Day, yet they are searching for alternatives. Actions speak louder than words.
Rodney has far more saves on his resume (172) than Parnell (36), who has experience as a setup man and could still rise to the occasion if Rodney falters. Debating between two potential closers would be a good problem for the Mets to have.
Rodney could bring veteran leadership to a bullpen of mainly inexperienced young relievers. According to Fangraphs, the Mets bullpen ranked 27th in the majors last season with a minus-0.1 WAR, 6.96 K/9, 3.98 ERA and a 0.96 HR/9, the ninth-highest home run rate last year. 2012 was the same song and dance, with the Mets bullpen ranking second-worst in baseball.
Some of the Mets relievers have closer potential, such as Gonzalez Germen, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black, but they have barely gotten their feet wet. They throw hard but also wild. All of them need to work on their command before taking control of the ninth inning. Josh Edgin showed promise in 2012 but he unraveled in April 2013.
The Mets signed Kyle Farnsworth to a minor league deal this month, but low-risk, high-reward moves seldom reap the benefit. If Alderson wants to lift the bullpen out of the bottom five in baseball, he needs to make a major move.