It was bound to happen. The Mets, in their quest to bolster the perpetually-in-need-of-bolstering setup corps of their bullpen, have turned to Jose Valverde as a non-roster invitee for spring training.
Because the Mets franchise always follows specific pathologies when it comes to roster construction, there is actually a Mets follower out there who specifically predicted two years ago that when Valverde’s star began to fall and his fastball began to lose a few inches, the Mets would be there to try him out as a reclamation project.
The fit is just perfect.
The franchise that employed Armando Benitez, Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco as their bullpen closers have reached out to the logical successor to that triumvirate of meteoric, combustible relievers and said to Valverde, “Come on to camp. We’ll give you a try. You’ll fit right in.”
Although there were some brighter spots than usual last year—Bobby Parnell before he suffered his disc injury and LaTroy Hawkins surprising everybody with his consistency at age 40—the Mets have not had a stable and reliable bullpen corps since 2006. Rodriguez and Francisco (who are not, incidentally, the same person; Frank Francisco never beat up his father-in-law outside the Mets clubhouse) both were given the keys to the back end of the bullpen since then, and each eventually blew up and flamed out.
In Valverde, the Mets have an 11-year veteran who racked up 40-plus saves in a season for three different teams, most prominently with the Tigers, for whom Valverde pitched from 2010 through 2013. Even in his good seasons, Valverde has been a death-defying high-wire act, a disaster waiting to happen. His career average of 3.7 walks per nine innings should strike the fear of God into Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen—especially after having strike-throwers of such exceptional accuracy as Hawkins and Parnell in the ninth inning last season.
If Parnell can sufficiently recover from his neck issues, Valverde can be kept away from the ninth inning. That would be a good thing. In the last three seasons in Detroit, Valverde’s ERAs rose from 2.24 to 3.78 to 5.59. Does anybody really think the Mets are the organization with the know-how and the climate to turn Valverde around and return him to his level of former success?
Well, it did work with Hawkins, who has since departed for Colorado. But Hawkins was an entirely different kind of pitcher, a professional committed to staying in great shape and pounding the strike zone.
Everyone associated with the Mets is hoping for a full and fast recovery for Parnell. In the meantime, Valverde’s story will be one of the interesting sidebars of the spring.
And, as an aside, and in keeping with the Mets’ predictable pathology of roster construction, when the Mets end up inviting Fernando Rodney to spring training in 2015 or 2016 (you know, eventually, they will), remember you read it here at DoubleGSports.com first.