Mets Closer Watch: Who’s Been Taken and Who’s Left


Sandy Alderson worked some magic before the 2011 trade deadline to get Francisco Rodriguez and his vesting option off the team’s hands.  But after the Bobby Parnell experiment didn’t quite work out, Sandy and the Mets are now in search of a new ninth-inning man.  A closer signing will likely be the only splash the team makes make this winter — unless, of course, they re-sign Jose Reyes.  Though it’s been a slow offseason in MLB so far, several free-agent closers already have new homes, and Alderson will likely be working hard at next week’s winter meetings to strike a deal.  Here’s a quick look at which free-agent closers have already been snagged, and which ones could still end up in orange and blue.

Already Gone

Jonathan Papelbon

The ex-Sock set the bar high this offseason, signing a 4-year, $50 million deal with the Phils

on November 11.  He saved  31 games in 2011, his lowest total in six years as Boston’s closer, but his numbers were still impressive: he walked just 1.4 and struck out 12.2 per 9 innings.

Joe Nathan

After seven years with the Twins, Nathan will be a Texas Ranger in 2012 after signing a 2-year, $14.5 million contract with a $9 mill team option for 2014.  The 37-year old missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and in 2011 he saved just 14 games and was replaced in the closer role by Matt Capps.  But the Rangers are giving Nathan the closer job, and they plan to try out Neftali Feliz as a starter.

Jose Valverde

“Papa Grande” saved a career-high 49 games this past season for the Tigers, who picked up his $9 million option for 2012.

Kyle Farnsworth

Farnsworth also had his 2012 option picked up, for $3.3 mill.  The ex-Yank had a solid year for the Royals, racking up 25 saves in his first real closer test and posting a sub-1.0 WHIP.

Jonathan Broxton

Yesterday, Broxton inked a one-year, $4 million deal with the Royals, who plan to have the ex-Dodger stopper setup Joakim Soria, who split the closing duties with Farnsworth last year.  Broxton made just 14 appearances in 2010 and had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in September.  The Mets were pursuing him, but it was apparently an ex-Met who helped him reach his decision: Jeff Francoeur recruited the fellow native of Georgia, where the pair recently went hunting with Royals’ manager Ned Yost.  (Personal note: I hate Jeff Francoeur.)

Still Available

Heath Bell

Bell isn’t exactly fond of the Mets organization, and his career only took off once he escaped New York for San Diego.  He has had three straight seasons with 40+ saves, and it sure would be sweet to have him back — but the chances are slim.

Matt Capps

2010 was Capps’ only strong year as a closer, and last year he had just 15 saves and a 4.25 ERA for the Twins.  His strikeout numbers were also down.  However, he may come at a price the Mets can afford, and his agent suggested that heading to Queens is a definite option.

Francisco Cordero

The 36-year old continued to be effective for the Reds last year, and like Capps he is a Type B free agent (Cordero was Type A before the new collective bargaining agreement) and is a feasible option for the Mets.  He has proven himself as a closer, and while some teams might be turned off by his age, the Mets are only looking for a short-term stopgap.

Frank Francisco

No, he is not the same person as Francisco Cordero.  This Francisco is younger (32) and strikes out over a batter per inning, and he made $4 mill with the Blue Jays last year while saving 17 games.  The Mets have already met with his reps and reportedly would be willing to give him a two-year deal.  Don’t be surprised if he becomes a Met. 

Brad Lidge

Lidge spent most of 2011 on the DL, and when he returned he lost the closer job to Ryan Madson.  The Phillies declined Lidge’s option, and understandably so — he was horrendous is 2009, and he missed half of 2010 due to elbow surgery.  But he continues to strike batters out, and he’s been successful over the last two years when he’s been healthy.

(Madson is also a free agent, but like Bell, is a long shot for the Mets.)

Jon Rauch

Rauch is that really tall guy who used to be on the Nationals.  He has yet to spend a full season closing games, and he was quite mediocre for the Blue Jays last year.  The Mets might consider signing him in addition to someone like Capps or Francisco.

Octavio Dotel

It wouldn’t be quite as dramatic as Izzy’s reunion, but the Mets did sign Dotel in 1993 and were the first big league team he pitched for in ’99.  He’s played on five teams in the past two years, and ended up pitching very well during the Cardinals’ World Series run.  At 38 years old, Dotel has 108 career saves and could be a nice pen option for the Mets, even if he’s not their primary closer.

There are a handful of other relievers on the market who have at least some closer potential, but who haven’t come up in  Mets-related discussions.  To name a few:

Mike Gonzalez, George Sherrill, Chad Qualls, and Takashi Saito

And hey, look — a few ex-Mets are also free-agent relievers!  There’s K-Rod, of course, but he almost certainly won’t return.  Darren Oliver is out there, as a lefty middle-relief option.  And Guillermo Mota and Aaron Heilman are also available. … But seriously, Oliver is an option.