Mets Get Another Closer

11 12 2008

Putz will pitch the 8th inning in front of K-Rod

Putz will pitch the 8th inning in front of K-Rod

By Mike Gill
(From ESPN.COM)

The New York Mets overhauled their much-maligned bullpen with two big moves Wednesday, obtaining J.J. Putz from Seattle as part of a three-team, 12-player trade that gives them a setup man for new closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Hours after completing a $37 million, three-year contract with Rodriguez, New York dealt seven players — six to the Mariners and one to Cleveland — to get three back in a huge swap at the winter meetings.

“All I kept on hearing in the streets of New York when you go get bagels in the morning was, ‘Omar, please address the bullpen,'” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. “Well, to all you Mets fans, we’ve addressed the bullpen.”

New York shipped reliever Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, lefty Jason Vargas and three minor leaguers to the Mariners for Putz, center fielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green in the first trade by new Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik.

Promising outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was sent from the Indians to Seattle. Cleveland got reliever Joe Smith from the Mets and 23-year-old second baseman Luis Valbuena from the Mariners.

“It helps all of us,” Zduriencik said.

An All-Star in 2007 when he saved 40 games, Putz was 6-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 15 saves in 23 chances last season when he missed long stretches with ribcage and elbow injuries. But Minaya wasn’t concerned about the pitcher’s health, saying New York had a scout at his final game of the season and Putz maintained a 98-99 mph velocity.

“It’s about winning championships,” Minaya said. “I’ve always said it’s about the team and putting teams first and going for that ring. To win, you’ve got to sacrifice yourself.”

Before the trade was announced, Putz’s agent, Craig Landis, said the right-hander wanted to remain a closer. But Minaya said he spoke with Putz, who was excited about his new team and role.

“It’s a new challenge and I’m excited about it,” Putz said, according to the Seattle Times. “I’m going to a new team that’s going to be very competitive. Frankie’s a great closer and with Sean Green going as well, we should have a great bullpen.”

The Indians had been interested in acquiring Putz before nearing a two-year contract with free-agent closer Kerry Wood, who needed to take a physical before that deal could be finalized.

Once the Indians closed in on Wood, the three-team trade came together quickly.

“We dealt from an area of depth,” Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro said, referring to his club’s young outfielders.

The key to the deal for Seattle was Gutierrez, who batted .248 with eight homers and 41 RBIs. A skilled defender, he played right field in Cleveland because the Indians have All-Star Grady Sizemore in center.

“That’s one of the things that we wanted to do is make our defense stronger,” Zduriencik said. “I think it’s helped us shore up our prospect status.”

Zduriencik said it was uncertain who would close for Seattle and too early to determine what role Heilman would have.

Heilman was inconsistent in his setup role with the Mets and would prefer to be a starter. He was 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA last season and was among the bullpen culprits as New York folded in September for the second straight season.

When Billy Wagner got hurt, the rest of the relievers struggled as they tried to adjust to different roles.

“We’ve proven that sometimes, unfortunately, one closer is not enough,” Minaya said.

Smith, a submarine-style right-hander who gets plenty of grounders, was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA.

“Joe Smith clearly goes right in the major league bullpen as a guy we’ve had long-term interest in,” Shapiro said. “A different look, complements our ‘pen well. We think he can be an important part of the back end of a ‘pen.”

The three minor leaguers New York sent to Seattle were first baseman Mike Carp, right-hander Maikel Cleto and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.

Putz will earn $5.3 million next season, and the Mets inherit an $8.9 million option for 2010 with a $1 million buyout. New York had 29 blown saves in 72 chances this year, and its 4.25 bullpen ERA ranked 13th in the NL.

“To get one closer like Frankie would have been a good winter. I think to get two guys like this is a great winter,” Minaya said.

PCPTake: The gap is closing.  The Mets might have the best eighth-ninth inning duo in baseball all the sudden.  When the Mets signed K-Rod on Tuesday, many observers said that’s great, but who will get him the ball.  If Putz is healthy he could be a dominating stopper in the eighth inning and those holds could be the difference in the three game gap between the Phillies and the Mets.

Right now, the Phillies are falling behind the Mets.  I think the Phillies need to sure a few things up while the Mets are building upon many of the things that hampered them in the 2008 season.  The Phillies lone move this offseason on the field was a minor trade for a back-up, back-stop – not good enough for me.

Overall, I think the Mets might still need another arm in the rotation, but they certinly have bulked up their bullpen and if they remain active they just might pass the Phillies before the Phils even make a move.

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2 responses

11 12 2008
Jared Eisenberg

It definitely improves the team right away.

As for K-Rod, he is good, not great. His velocity is down, he is either getting older and his arm is waring or he doesn’t need to throw as hard because he has better control. Still better that what was there.

Putz can be very dominant as he was 2 years ago. Assuming he is healthy, the Mets can make it a 21 out game. This is one of the things they did really well 3 years ago when they won the division easily. The had a really good bullpen and that always seems to be the trend of WS winners.

They gave up Heilman (thank goodness), Joe Smith (good young side throwing reliever), Endy Chavez (great defensive OF, great speed) and a few prospects. They did give up some talent, but relievers are hot one year and cold the next. This happens every year, so why not take a chance.

They had 29 blown saves last year behind St. Louis & Seattle (where Mr. Putz is coming from). If they saved 25% of those games, they would have won the division easily. We will see how it all plays out.

12 12 2008
Kerel Cooper

I think it’s a good move and one the Mets had to make. The Mets took care of priority #1 this week (bullpen).

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