Did last night’s heartbreaking loss make anyone miss K-Rod? Does it mean the Mets need to go out next offseason and overspend on a closer, much like they did following the 2008 season? The answer is no, because for the most part, closers are overpriced (for an exception, see Mariano Rivera). So unless the front office is willing to spend big money on a free agent reliever like Ryan Madson, Heath Bell or Matt Capps (which I highly doubt they will), the Mets will have to develop a closer from within their farm system, something that hasn’t been done since Roger McDowell.
One thing is seems likely: Jason Isringhausen will not be the team’s closer next season. Regardless of how he performs the rest of this season, and his last two appearance’s notwithstanding, it just doesn’t seem like Izzy has the stamina to make it through an entire season in the closer’s role. So forgetting about the remainder of 2011, here are a few internal options for the closing job in 2012 and beyond.
Bobby Parnell: The flame-throwing Parnell remains the favorite to close games this season and, barring a free-agent signing, the favorite in next spring training’s closing competition. He gets by with a fastball that averages in the upper-90s and a slider in the upper-80s. He’s struck out 41 batters in 33.2 innings while walking 13, but has been hit harder than one would think, surrendering 38 hits. Part of that has been luck, evidenced by a .368 BABIP and 2.95 xFIP (much lower than his 3.74 ERA). He’s also generation ground balls at a 48.9% clip and getting batters to swing and miss 10.2% of the time. Still, he has some more learning to do and needs to get some more movement on his fastball if he wants to be consistent as a closer.
Pedro Beato: The Rule 5 pick has had an inconsistent season with flashes of dominance. He doesn’t throw his heater as hard as Parnell (92.5 mph), but his pitches, a cutter, curve and change in addition to his fastball, feature more movement. Surprisingly, Beato has only fanned 26 batters in 45.1 innings while walking 19 and obtaining a swing and miss rate of just 7.5%. He’s only allowed 33 hits, helped in part by a .228 BABIP, but also has a ground ball rate of 48.1%. If the Mets fall entirely out of the race, it would be helpful for Beato’s development to pitch in some high leverage situations in addition to receiving some mentoring from Isringhausen.
Josh Edgin: The Mets don’t really have any dominant relievers at Buffalo or Binghamton, so down to St. Lucie I go for the 30th round draft pick in 2010. Now 24 years old, Edgin is too old to be pitching in A ball and proving it by dominating. Between Savannah and St. Lucie, the southpaw has struck out 62 batters in 53 innings while only allowing 33 hits and walking 17. He’s earned 24 saves in his minor league career and only allowed three long balls. He will likely spend next year at Binghamton and possibly Buffalo if he keeps dominating, and probably won’t make the majors until 2013 unless he really climbs the latter, but he is an intriguing arm in the Mets system.
Jenrry Mejia/Jeurys Familia: What-two of the top Mets pitching prospects in the closer discussion? Obviously starters have more value than closers, and I want the Mets organization to see both of these young arms through before even remotely considering a move to the bullpen (after all, they are both just 21, and oddly enough born one day apart). However, if in the long run, things don’t work out for these guys in the rotation, it’s possible they could become closers. After all, they both throw hard, have one good secondary pitch and some control problems; if they never develop their other secondary stuff fully, maybe the bullpen would be for the best (Rivera, after all, was a starter in the minors). However, that is years away, and for now I will still dream of my Mejia/Familia/Jon Niese/Matt Harvey/Zack Wheeler rotation in 2013.
The point is, it greatly behooves the Mets to develop their own closer, like the Giants have done with Brian Wilson, the Braves with Craig Kimbrel and the Nationals with Drew Storen, rather than seek one through free agency, which could cost millions. Whether Parnell is that guy or someone else, allocating resources on a reliever as opposed to a starter or position player is foolish. And while it might be painful at first if a new closer doesn’t develop immediately, it’s best for the team in the long run.