In the first big move of the winter meetings, the Mets on Tuesday reached agreement with free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez
The signing addresses the most glaring weakness of a club that came up short of the playoffs on the final day of the season for the second year in a row. It brings the former Angels hurler, who broke
As a unit, the Mets ranked 15th in the National League and 24th in the majors in
The Mets' season took a turn for the worse on Aug. 2, when closer
The Mets' problem was that they lacked a quality reliever to step up and assume the closer role thanks to a bullpen worn to the nub by overuse and platoon-based specialization. Top setup men
So the Mets needed a closer. The question is how well they did in landing this particular one. Rodriguez was far from the only name brand closer in a crowded market, one that includes all-time saves leader
Nearly all of those pitchers have dealt with a major injury at least once in the past few years, and aside from the 41-year-old Hoffman, who's in the twilight of his career and facing a move from a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, none offers a recent track record as strong as K-Rod's. In fact, since 2003, his first full season, Rodriguez ranks third in the majors in WXRL, a stat which does a much better job of gauging a reliever's value than mere save totals, because it accounts for the inning-score-baserunner combo a pitcher inherits when he comes into a game, and quite rightly dishes out credit to relievers who may pitch more crucial situations prior to the ninth inning:
FRA is Fair Run Average, the number of runs (earned or not) per nine innings that a pitcher allowed after accounting for his performance in dealing with inherited runners. That's a blind spot for traditional ERA calculations, though it matters more for pitchers who enter the game mid-inning than it does for your typical ninth-inning specialist.
On that topic, it's worth noting that entering mid-inning is something Rodriguez rarely does. Since 2005, his first full year as closer, he has
The saves record itself simply isn't that impressive. It's a function of circumstance, namely the need for close ball games. The Angels, with an excellent pitching staff but only a so-so offense, were ideally suited to providing Rodriguez with more save opportunities than your average team, by playing close games; of their 100 wins, 71 were in games decided by three runs or less. From a sabermetric standpoint, it's more impressive that Rodriguez finished
As for the price tag on Rodriguez, three years and $37 million sounds quite reasonable given that he turned down a three-year, $33 million deal from the Angels in the spring and entered the offseason
The contract appears to be slightly below market in terms of the current big-dollar closer deals. It comes in well below the three-year, $45 million contract that Rivera signed last winter in terms of its average annual value. It's on par with the three-year, $37.5 million extension that
The short deal works both ways. It minimizes the Mets' exposure to injury risk, something that any critic of
As to whether this deal can be the difference-maker for the Mets, it's certainly a step in the right direction, but it's also really just one piece in a puzzle. Given the unimpressive showings by Heilman and Sanchez, they still need to revamp their setup corps, though whether they do so by signing a setup man such as
One can't expect a GM to solve all of his team's problems with a single transaction. While Minaya didn't exactly think outside the box in pursuing the biggest name on the market when it came to closers, he closed the deal, and at a reasonable price to boot.