After trading away Francisco Rodriguez last season, the New York Mets didn’t have a very good bullpen. While relievers Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak showed some promise, and Manny Acosta had a strong finish to the year, the contributions of the relief corps on the whole lacked consistency and reliability, as they finished with the third worst strike out rate in the National League, to go along with rather awful outcome numbers.
The future didn’t look bright for the bullpen in New York. High priced relievers seemed far out of range of what the Mets were willing to pay, and pitchers available through trade were only “available” to teams looking to get pillaged. But then, out of nowhere, in the span of one hour on a Tuesday evening, like a headache stopping, the Mets suddenly put together a competitive bullpen. Seriously.
While signing former Blue Jays whipping boy Jon Rauch to a one year deal worth $3.5 million may not have inspired a whole lot of confidence in the team’s fan base considering the season he had in 2011, it was a start.
Mere minutes later, it was announced that in addition to Rauch, the team would be acquiring on the block reliever Ramon Ramirez, along with Andres Torres from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Angel Pagan.
Then, shortly after that, the Mets announced that they had signed another former member of the Blue Jays bullpen in Frank Francisco to a two year deal worth a very reasonable $12 million.
Three relievers and a defensively gifted center fielder all became New York Mets in an hour’s time.
Among the relievers, Rauch is likely the weakest. The velocity on his fastball declined for the fourth season in a row last year and a low strike out rate combined with a moon raking home run rate meant that he was worse than a replacement player for Toronto. However, $3.5 million isn’t a whole lot for a veteran reliever who cannot possibly be worse. It was only in 2010 when he was closing out games for the Minnesota Twins and putting up a sub 3.00 FIP.
Francisco, meanwhile, will most likely be the team’s closer. A glance at his numbers for the whole of last season may not impress many, but it should be remembered that he missed most of Spring Training, and because of Rauch’s failings combined with the realization of Octavio Dotel’s one dimensionability, he was likely rushed back from the Disabled List and hurried through his rehab stints. As a result, Toronto didn’t get a glimpse of the real Francisco until mid-season when he finally began delivering on the promise that made the Blue Jays trade Mike Napoli for him before the season started.
As for the trade with the Giants, even though Torres was likely to be non-tendered and Ramirez, who impressed me immensely last season, was expendable due to increasing arbitration cost combined with an already expensive bullpen, I don’t know why San Francisco would be interested in Pagan. Even in the anaemic Giants lineup he probably projects best as as a fourth outfielder. Adding more intrigue to the acquisition from San Francisco’s perspective is that Pagan projects to earn $4.7 million through arbitration, more than Torres and Ramirez combined.
If Ramirez continues to use his slider not just for strikeouts, but also to get ahead in counts, this deal could end up being an absolute steal for the Mets.
While the price for Rauch might have been a bit higher than what I would’ve been willing to pay, on the whole, they needed fresh, warm bodies in the bullpen, and that’s exactly what these additions are, at a bare minimum. Francisco and Ramirez have an upside that I believe will make the Mets look very smart next season.
The two former Blue Jays relievers getting signed means that Toronto will receive two compensation draft picks in the supplemental round of the 2012 draft.