Bobby Parnell recorded his 20th save of the season today against the Braves. Parnell pitched in 3 of the 4 games against the Braves this week, recording 2 saves while blowing 1 save. This series is probably representative of what Parnell has become as a closer. He’s generally reliable, though not spectacular. If you look at his blown save on July 22, Parnell was the victim of some bad luck. John Buck failed to catch a pitch with 2 runners on, setting up the tying and winning runs. Evan Gattis blooped a single in front of Marlon Byrd, who may have been positioned a little to deeply in right field. However, Parnell did not pitch out of the 9th inning jam. He was unable to record a strike out, or pop up, against Chris Johnson who grounded out to tie the game. He wasn’t able to retire Reed Johnson with 2 outs to keep the game tied. Yet Parnell did record saves, both times with 3-run leads, on Tuesday and Thursday. So, what are the Mets to do with Bobby Parnell?
Parnell is having a good season. He has converted 20 of 24 save opportunities, and has pitched to a .96 WHIP. He has established his knuckle curve, and throws it for strikes consistently. He also has variations on his fastball, throwing it at 92-94 mph for location, and 98-100 mph when he needs to summon that “extra yard.” There is no question that Parnell has made tremendous progress in 2013 (thank you, Jason Isringhausen). However, the Mets must ask themselves what they truly have with Parnell. Do they have a progressing pitcher, who at 28, is still fairly young and will continue to get better? Or, do they have a pitcher who has hit his high-water level at 28, and will always be an effective, but not top-notch, closer? The answer to these questions will inform the Mets’ next steps with Parnell. If Sandy Alderson believes that Parnell is at his best right now, Alderson may decide to trade Parnell, essentially “selling high”. If Alderson believes that Parnell will continue to progress, and become more of a” lights-out” closer, he may choose to hold onto Parnell as the closer of the future.
Another factor in the keep/trade decision will be the market for closers. This week, Francisco Rodriguez was traded from Milwaukee to Baltimore. The Brewers received minor leaguer Nick Delmonico for K Rod. Delmonico is an infielder who has not played above class A. In two seasons at class A, Delmonico has hit .246 with 24 home runs, and a .785 OPS. Delmonico’s early returns would suggest that he may be a viable prospect. If that’s they type of return K Rod can draw, one has to wonder what Parnell could return to the Mets. If teams such as the Tigers and Red Sox are desperate enough for a closer, could Parnell retrieve a Nick Castellanos or Jackie Bradley, Jr.? These are the analytics Sandy Alderson et al will have to undertake over the next 6 days before the trading deadline.
I tend to believe that Parnell may be at his best right now. He is a reasonably solid closer. I think it may be time to sell high on him, if the package coming back would include talent on par with Castellanos or Bradley. The Mets could look to acquire a closer after this season, or groom one from the likes of Jeurys Familia or Jack Leathersich. What do you think they should do with Parnell?