In light of Sandy Alderson's comments during his interview in the SNY booth on Tuesday night regarding the importance of finding a closer for next season, I thought it'd be worth taking a look at the free agent market for relief pitchers. Unsurprisingly, Alderson pointed out that it's not necessary to overspend on the position. He also mentioned that finding a new closer could be done via trade, but if he turns to the free agent market, there will be plenty of options.
There will plenty of big names on the market, most of which are likely to be Type A free agents: Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Kyle Farnsworth, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, and Jose Valverde. If there's one thing that Alderson's front office has clearly emphasized in its time running the team, it's the amateur draft. Considering the loss of a draft pick associated with signing a Type A free agent and the types of contracts required to sign these pitchers, it would be a big surprise to see any of them in a Mets uniform come Opening Day.
There are plenty of other relievers slated to hit the market, and a few might make sense for the Mets this winter. The Mets showed last winter that they were not afraid to leverage pitchers with injuries to find value in the free agent market with Chris Capuano and Chris Young, and that's where I'll start. There's more to come on some other candidates in the coming days.
Jonathan Broxton: The Dodgers, specifically Don Mattingly, may not want Broxton back next year after he spent the grand majority of 2011 on the disabled list with bone spurs in his elbow. He's had surgery to get rid of the bone spurs, and if his recovery goes as well as other pitchers who had the same procedure, he could be ready for spring training.
Prior to the injury, Broxton was dominant, striking out over eleven batters per nine innings in his career. He's still only 27-years-old and will turn 28 in June. There was some concern about Broxton's drop in average fastball velocity in 2010, a 2.5 mph drop, but he still managed a pretty good year out of the Dodgers' bullpen. If the best Broxton can get this winter is a one-year, incentive-laden deal, he seems like a no-brainer for the Mets.
Joe Nathan: He may not want to leave Minnesota, but whether or not the Twins bring him back remains to be seen. Nathan had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and returned to the mound with Minnesota in June. He's made forty-five appearances since then, posting pretty good rates of 8.86 K/9 and 2.81 BB/9. His fastball is a bit slower than it was pre-injury, which might partially explain why Nathan has given up home runs many more often than he did in the past. He's turning 37 in November, which makes his odds of injury higher but potential salary lower for next season.
Joel Zumaya: His list of injuries makes the other two guys look like models of pitching health, but Zumaya will only turn 27 in November. He hasn't really pitched much in the majors given the number of seasons he's been a major league player, but in 2010, his fastball averaged 99.3 mph. Control was a major issue in every year except 2010, which could have been an improvement or a mere statistical aberration. If he's available on the cheap, he might be one of the under-the-radar types to which Alderson referred in his interview.
Next up: healthy relievers who've yet to become Proven Closers™, probably sometime tomorrow.