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New York Mets Should Turn to Free-Agent Market to Solve Bullpen Woes

Chicago Cubs' Kevin Gregg pumps his fist after the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning of a baseball game on Monday, July 22, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Michael NatelliCorrespondent IMay 15, 2014

The New York Mets have tried several different options in an attempt to replace injured closer Bobby Parnell this season, but nothing has seemed to work thus far. The team cut its most recent closer, Kyle Farnsworth, on Wednesday, and has also tried Jose Valverde and Carlos Torres in the ninth-inning role to this point.

Recent call-up Jacob deGrom could ultimately take over the closing job at some point, as many scouts feel his arsenal of pitches is better suited for the bullpen than the starting rotation. However, the 25-year-old is currently tabbed as New York's fifth starter, so it'll need to find an alternative for the time being.

While the free-agent market certainly wasn't what it was in December or January, it does still have a few options that the Mets could bring in as they try to fix their weakest link.

Ryan Madson and Todd Coffey, who are both coming off Tommy John surgeries, present low-risk, potentially high-reward signings if the Mets are willing to look for external help. The financial commitment would likely be minimal, an incentive-based major league contract, and neither player would likely do any worse than the three arms that have closed thus far.

Madson presents the more logical option, as he's had closing experience with the Philadelphia Phillies in the past. While he hasn't pitched in a big league game since 2011, Madson did post back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA seasons with Philadelphia from 2010-2011, also saving 32 games for the Phillies in his final season with the club. If his arm can hold up, Madson is one of the better relievers in the game, and it wouldn't hurt for the Mets to take a flier on him.

Coffey would probably be better suited as a middle reliever, as he has just 11 career saves in eight big league seasons. However, the Mets' closer struggles have been a microcosm of the team's unstable bullpen as a whole, and adding the veteran could help turn things around. While Coffey has never posted overwhelming numbers, he was a workhorse before his surgery, pitching in at least 69 games every season from 2009-2011. He also posted a career-high 8.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio with the Dodgers in 2012 before his injury.

Again, the veteran is likely to fit in as a middle reliever, but he could also serve as a backup option if newly anointed closers continue to struggle.

Also available on the free-agent market is 35-year-old Kevin Gregg. While his numbers weren't electrifying in 2013, it's puzzling why Gregg is without work at this point, as he posted a solid 3.48 ERA and 33 saves for the Cubs last season.

After posting average numbers with the Orioles in 2011 and 2012, Gregg thrived in his return to the National League last year and could potentially build on that success pitching in the spacious Citi Field. While he'll have more leverage in contract negotiations than Madson or Coffey, Gregg is also the safest bet of the three, and signing him could potentially get the Mets past hovering around the .500 mark.

Despite a 19-20 record, the Mets sit just three games out of first place in the National League East. While they probably didn't enter this season with the expectations of doing serious damage in the division title race, injuries to several key Nationals and Braves players have left the door wide open for New York, Philadelphia or Miami to sneak up and challenge for the top spot.

If the Mets are going to be that team, they'll have to get some production out of their bullpen at some point. There aren't any star closers available at this point in the season, but there are options out there if Sandy Alderson and company are going to take this year seriously.

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