While the Mets try to void the contract of troubled closer Francisco Rodriguez, let’s take a look at the possible options to fill the closer’s role for the rest of this season and next year.
Last night against the Astros, Takahashi earned his first career save, retiring the Astros in order in the ninth. He has proven to be a valuable commodity for the Mets this season, whether in a starting role or in the bullpen. Jerry Manuel said that Takahashi will take over the closer’s role for the remainder of the season. However, his value to the team is as a swing-man. He can spot-start or throw 3-4 quality innings out of the bullpen. He even has shown he can be an eighth inning guy. While he may see some time in the closer’s role, he is not the long term solution.
When Bobby Parnell was recalled from Buffalo, he was flat-out dominant. A biting slider to go along with 96+ mph gas proved to be an intriguing combination. He split time with Pedro Feliciano in the eighth inning, facing mostly right handed hitters. However, a few poor outings in row coupled with the emergence of Takahashi as the new set-up man has banished Parnell to more of a mop-up role. Looking forward, Parnell has the stuff to be a dominant closer. However, he needs to prove to the team brass that he can consistently shut the door at the end of the game.
The 20 year old prospect has had an up and down year. He was kept on the roster when he should have started the season in the minors. He was used sparingly and therefore unable to gain confidence on the mound. While he experienced some success, Mejia was sent back to the minors in order to become a starting pitcher. This was before the recent hoopla surrounding K-Rod. Mejia would be the ideal closer for this Mets team next year. Some may say he is too inexperienced, but the only way to gain experience is to have the opportunity. He should immediately be converted to the closer’s role at Binghamton and given the chance to prove his worth. He is still only 20 so maybe he will begin next season in the minors as well, but without K-Rod, Mejia becomes a viable option.
The former 15 game winner has been injury plagued for his entire Mets career. The idea of moving him to the bullpen has been bounced around the last year or so, and K-Rod’s injury may facilitate the move. When looking at Maine, he seems to be effective his first time through the order, but once opponents see him for the second and third time, he tends to get rattled. Having him as a closer would work to his strengths since he would hypothetically only be facing batters once a game. When he is fully healthy, he has solid stuff and challenges hitters. He will be a free agent at the end of this season so the question will be if the Mets will take a gamble on even bringing him back let alone making him the closer.
Despite his off-field antics, K-Rod does have another year left on his contract in addition to a vesting option for 2012 based on performance. It’s safe to say that if Omar Minaya is still the general manager of the Mets in 2011, K-Rod will be here. Minaya will try to prove to the fans that his investments were smart ones, though the contracts of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez limit Minaya’s credibility. If he can return healthy and the fans can forgive him for his actions (highly unlikely), K-Rod is still one of the premier closers in the game, although he tends to make things interesting in the ninth.
As of now, these appear to be the best options for the new Mets closer. Unless a sleeper from the minors emerges (Tobi Stoner, Eddie Kunz, etc.) or the Mets make an offseason trade (Kevin Gregg perhaps), the Mets will choose from one of these candidates. The smartest option would be the send K-Rod packing, but the Mets’ hierarchy may have a different plan.
About the Author
Written by Jim Mancari
James (Jim) Mancari hails from Massapequa, NY. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA with degrees in History and Kinesiology. Jim currently is pursuing a Master's degree in Journalism at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY). He is a devout Mets fan and takes pride in his team, despite their lack of success over the last few years. Like all Mets' fans, Jim has plenty of hope. Jim also writes for the NJ Nets on this site. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He appreciates and respects additional opinions.