On Wednesday, the New York Mets took a big step towards solidifying their bullpen for the 2014 season by signing Jose Valverde to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training; Valverde is exactly the kind of pitcher the Mets need in their bullpen heading into the season.
The health of incumbent closer Bobby Parnell is a concern for the Mets after he had offseason surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He’s two weeks behind schedule, and if he’s not ready for the start of the season, the Mets don’t have a pitcher on their roster with experience as a closer that could replace Parnell.
But Valverde changes that for the Mets. Despite a horrible 2013 season, which ended with him being demoted to triple-A and ultimately released, Valverde has been a major league closer for nearly a decade, including four seasons in the last seven years in which he’s recorded 35 or more saves. Valverde gives the Mets a veteran reliever with experience as a closer, which is something they previously lacked.
With the Mets giving spring training invitations to Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, they are giving two veterans a chance to be a part of their bullpen that will be full of young and inexperienced pitchers otherwise. Much like LaTroy Hawkins did for them last year, Valverde and Farnsworth can help mentor the young pitchers in the Mets’ bullpen, which could be an important intangible to the team’s success this year.
There’s no guarantee that Valderde will work out and make the Mets’ opening day roster; after his performance last year, his career may be close to finished. But it’s a low-risk signing for the Mets that gives them a veteran reliever in Valverde, who has experience as a closer, which is exactly what they needed to add to their bullpen before the season.