The Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million contract, making him the one of the highest-paid closers in the MLB. This fills a hole in a weak bullpen that was a main contributor to keeping the Mets out of the playoffs in 2008.
On the surface this appears to be an ideal signing that should make the team competitive with the Phillies in 2009, but assuming limited resources (which may not exactly be the case in New York), could the Mets have used their dollars more wisely?
K-Rod was the first closer to sign in a deep free agent class for closers. While Rodriguez, the single-season record holder with 62 saves, more than tops the list, there are several quality closers available that will cost a fraction of the price.
Kerry Wood (34 saves) and Brian Fuentes (30 saves) represent excellent closers available before the K-Rod signing. Guillermo Mota, Brandon Lyon, Trevor Hoffman, Eric Gagne, and Eddie Guardado represent not necessarily the sexiest options, but they can provide value at a vast discount.
What do the Mets do with the extra coin?
Invest in depth! This is a team with three solid young hitters in leadoff man Jose Reyes, New York’s best third baseman in David Wright, and a five-tool player in Carlos Beltran. But who else? Carlos Delgado had a great 2008 with a new contract looming, but he is getting up there in age and can’t be expected to maintain that production.
After those four, the remainder of the lineup is unimpressive, and injuries and lack of depth in the lineup is what kept this team out of the playoffs.
The Mets desperately need a reliable corner outfielder that can stay healthy and provide some pop in the bottom half of the lineup and a couple solid veterans for the bench so the team doesn’t have to rely on untested minor leaguers and washed-up veterans to score runs.
A portion of that $37 million would be well spent on solid outfield bats like Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Milton Bradley, or Raul Ibanez. These could be pricey options, but look at how many runs the Mets scored after the sixth inning in 2008. They desperately need another solid hitter.
Maybe a starter?
If a team is hurting from the potential loss of Oliver Perez, maybe a starter or two is order as well. Santana, Maine, and Pelfrey are a solid corps, but there's huge drop-off after that. Go after an A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets to create a competitive rotation. Both would bring 12-15 more wins to a rotation that probably can’t squeeze five out its bottom two starters, whoever they may be.
The Mets are a better team with K-Rod. The signing solidifies a weak bullpen and provides some much-needed fire in the ninth inning, but one player isn't getting this team into the postseason. This is probably the first of many free agent acquisitions for a high budget team, but it’s a lot of green to be investing in a player that only plays one inning a game.