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MLB New York Mets

New York Mets Looking To Fill Specialist Role With LaTroy Hawkins

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets will go into the 2013 season with a fair bit of depth in the starting rotation, even if its health is questionable.

The bullpen, on the other hand, is a different story.

With Jon Rauch gone, the team is left with the one-two punch of Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell as late-inning options, and the team has been looking to add another reliever to the mix because well, they don’t really want to be handing the ball in the late innings to Francisco, and for good reason.

It’s with that in mind that they went out and signed 40-year old LaTroy Hawkins to a minor league contract today, but that the veteran will give the team what it’s looking for is far from a sure thing.

Sure, Hawkins is only one year removed from a 52-appearance season with the Milwaukee Brewers that saw him put up an excellent 2.42 ERA, but the veteran is long from having the form that he owned as a closer in the big leagues all those years ago.

The most alarming of these trends is his velocity, which has seen a decline in the last three years; for a guy who throws his fastball 70% of the time, that’s going to be an issue going forward. At 40-years old, it’s not a surprise that Hawkins has battled his share of health issues, having missed significant time due to injuries in each of the last four seasons.

Even when healthy, it’s not a stretch to say that his skills have been in serious decline. That’s something most notably shown by his strikeout rate, which dropped below five to 4.93 in 2012 – a number that hasn’t been there since 2007. To have any success at earning a spot on the Mets roster, Hawkins will have to show that he still has the ability to induce ground balls at a much higher than average rate.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Despite the things I’ve had to say about Hawkins, he has shown himself to be quite the specialist over recent years, with a .210 BAA when facing LHB over the last two seasons. There is a LOOGY role for him on this Mets club. Whether they’ll use him as such is a different question.

Hawkins will live and die by the ground ball and his home run rate, which was oscillated wildly over his career. It’s for that reason that his 3.64 ERA in 2012 did not translate to a major league contract with the Mets, but if his numbers end up trend the right way, and the team keeps right-handed bats away from him, they could have earned themselves another trade chip by the summer of 2013.

It’s a shot in the dark, but considering the state of the Mets bullpen, there really isn’t anything to lose.