Meet the Mess: The Bullpen Blues

Could Brad Lidge be an option for the Mets heading into 2012?
Could Brad Lidge be an option for the Mets heading into 2012?

A recent report in The New York Post has sparked conversation among the Mets fan base as the team has already begun questioning who will close out games come April of next season.

Let’s be honest, the current hodgepodge combination of Manny Acosta, Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato and Bobby Parnell has not inspired many with their ability to be a closer over a long term period of time, and contrary to popular belief GM Sandy Alderson might be looking outside the organization for help with the ninth inning.

It is believed that the notion that Alderson strictly adheres to the “Moneyball” closers-are-overpriced dictum is not as set and stone as previously thought and the GM might look to add a big-name closer through the Free Agent market.

In fact, Alderson went on to say that a strong closer is something that trickles beyond the field, and is important to off the field success as well.

“I think it has a real impact on not just team success, but also team outlook, team attitude, team confidence,” Alderson said in a report for  “Blown saves from time to time are part of the game, but blowing them at an inordinate rate can have, I think, a real negative impact on a team. So it needs to be a point of concentration for us.”

This was highlighted beyond just the need for a closer, as Alderson said strengthening the bullpen as a whole will be an emphasis this winter due to the Mets relievers now sport a 4.22 ERA – which ranks last in the National League. Also, since the All-Star break the Mets have blown 10 saves, which is one behind the Colorado Rockies for most in the majors.

Names like Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Madson, Brade Lidge, Jonathan Broxton and former Mets Heath Bell and Francisco Rodriguez will hit the open market and each offer different scenarios of the Mets to consider for their closer next season.

Knowing the Mets and their current financial situation, seeing the likes of Papelbon, Madson or Bell wearing orange and blue next season is not likely. Names such as them will command contracts that will siphon money that needs to be used to patch other holes on the roster, not to mention the attempt  to re-sign Jose Reyes.

A more likely scenario is the Mets offering a one-year incentive laden deal to one or both of Lidge and Broxton, hoping to catch the hurlers on a comeback, lightning-in-a-bottle, situation that would be a stopgap until the Mets are in a better financial situation.

Lidge, currently acting as the Phillies set-up man, is an intriguing option. Since coming off the disabled list on July 27 after recovering from a right posterior rotator cuff strain, Lidge is 0-1 with a 1.12 ERA and trying to prove he can still be the closer he once was.  If the Mets believe he is healthy enough to resume the role of an everyday closer, he would be someone worth exploring.

Broxton is not as inspiring as Lidge, but would likely come much cheaper on the open market. After going 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA this season, Broxton has been on the disabled list since May 4 and has undergone arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 19 his right elbow to remove a bone spur. He is not to begin throwing for another 6-8 weeks.

In reality, Broxton has not been the same since his stellar 2009 season where he struck out 114 batters and had a commanding 2.61 ERA for the Dodgers.

Other options could include Matt Capps, Kerry Wood, Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano if he declines his $11 million player option.

However, if the Mets do decide to stick to in-house candidates, there are a few options they could consider. The idea of shifting Mike Pelfrey from a starter to a closer was internally discussed, but dismissed almost immediately. While Pelfrey has the necessary “stuff” his mental makeup and ability to log 200+ innings will ultimately lead to him staying in the rotation.

Down the line, the Mets might be wise to consider using prospects Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia as a closer due to their dominance in the minors. However, both are currently considered to be starting pitchers for the long term.

While nothing is set in stone, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the Mets current combustible bullpen will feature many new faces come the beginning of the 2012 season.