Headed into Spring Training this year, the New York Mets didn’t really have a clear idea of how they wanted to sort out their ninth-inning situation.
All they knew was that they didn’t want to give the ball back to Frank Francisco, who nearly achieved the rare Kevin Gregg-ian feat of being a negative fWAR closer, barely avoiding neutral value with 0.1 last season.
His hold on the job was openly questioned by team GM Sandy Alderson, even if manager Terry Collins may have had a slightly differing opinion.
Well, now that Francisco has shown up to camp with elbow inflammation that has him at a self-evaluated “zero” percent, that won’t really matter anymore. Francisco can’t be given the ball if he can’t pitch at all, and the team now have a much better idea of how they’ll proceed.
This time, there are no disagreements - Bobby Parnell will be the team’s closer to start the season, inheriting a role that he had been groomed for over the last couple of seasons.
It’s a wonder why the team didn’t just commit to the righty to begin with, as he was clearly the team’s best option to. While his stuff isn’t what you’d describe as overwhelming or lights-out, Parnell possess a fastball in the high-90s, and posted two sub-3.00 ERA seasons over the last three years.
His 8.25 K/9 isn’t elite, and he was never truly a strikeout artist as a starter in the minors, but the 28-year old will get his share of whiffs when necessary, doesn’t give up too many homers (0.60 H/9), and has a 2.28 career K/BB that keeps him above water more often than not.
No, the former set-up man isn’t a dominant reliever by any means, but even with Brandon Lyon having been brought in to the mix, Parnell is still the clear choice to get the ball in the ninth.
And now, the job is his – to start, anyway. Parnell’s leash will be significant, but there are never guarantees with relievers’ jobs, something that might be more true in New York than most other teams. Should he falter, Lyon should have little problem stepping in, but if that doesn’t work?
Uh, well, the team might just have to go with the throw-something-at-it-until-it-sticks approach, should it come to that.
Alderson could also make it a little more interesting by bringing in another reliever like Jose Valverde or consider a reunion with Francisco Rodriguez, both former “proven closers” who have been unable to find a job yet.
Neither would necessarily be better than Parnell or Lyon, but hey, at least it would give the Mets options.
That would only be needed if Parnell falls flat on his face to begin with, though, and if the improvements he made last year can be retained, there’s no reason why he would.