With the free-agency signing period just beginning Friday, I thought we should take a look at the biggest name that will be available and why the New York Mets would be smart to go get him.
Let’s look at the obvious reason. Their former closer, Billy Wagner, will be out with an arm injury for the 2009 season. I say “former” as if he’s not on the team anymore. Well at least, he isn’t yet.
Wagner will be 38 at the start of the 2010 season, when he returns after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Even if he’s fully recovered, he probably won’t have the same stuff that got him to fifth on the all-time saves list with 385.
I wish him well, as he’s a fellow Virginian, and if anyone can do it, Wagner can. I just don’t think it will be with the Mets.
Secondly, the Mets were in a lot of close games last year. They had 76 save opportunities and only converted 43 of them. That’s only about 56 percent, which is not very good for a team that was touted as a World Series contender. Take the eventual winners, the Philadelphia Phillies, for example. They converted 47 out of 63 save opportunities (about 74 percent). No wonder they won it all!
Now, I know some of those weren’t ninth-inning collapses, but let’s say 60 of them were legit save opportunities, where having a big-time closer would benefit. You are talking about possibly converting 55 of those. That’s 12 more than last years Mets team, and 12 more wins, which would have handed them the N.L. East in a runaway.
Insert 26-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, the record holder for saves in a season with 62. With one acquisition, the Mets would solidify their bullpen for years to come. I know what you’re thinking: How does one guy fix an entire bullpen?
The one thing the Mets did accomplish last year was getting the guys in their bullpen some experience with pitching in tough situations. Guys like Joe Smith, Duaner Sanchez, and Luis Ayala, who took over Wagner’s closing duties after being acquired from the Washington Nationals, all got extended innings.
They will be able to slip into those seventh and eighth-inning spots, and set up for K-Rod.
The doubters will say he demands too much money, with an asking price of $15 million per year for four or five years. I think the single-season saves record holder deserves that kind of money.
Last year, it was Johan Santana at the beginning of the rotation. This year, it should be Rodriguez at the back-end of the rotation. If not because he’s a stud, he’s young, and he’s a big name, but because he wants to be here. He’s been quoted recently as saying the Mets would be a “good fit” for him.
I think Met fans would agree.