The decisions made this offseason, in regards to closer and bullpen, will either make general managers look very foolish or very brilliant.
While Pat Gillick and company head to Virginia for another round of schmoozing, the Mets are said to be prepared to make Billy Wagner an offer he cannot refuse.
If three years wasn’t enough already, the Mets are reportedly willing to extend the offer to four years. The Phils have set a figure believed to be around three years, $30 million, which, in the opinion of this site, is already too much for 34-year-old over-thrower with a history of injuries.
It takes more than just a good closer
The real fight this offseason isn't for luxury players like Billy Wagner. The fights are for relievers and set-up men like Bob Howry of the Indians, a player reported to be on the Phillies radar according to ESPN Insider.
Howry will be asking for something like a two or three year deal at about $3.5 to 4 million a season, putting many more teams in play for his services. Howry, a 32-year-old right-hander who went 7-4 with a 2.47 ERA, was the sixth-highest rated non-closer reliever according to win shares, ranking 19th overall in the reliever category.
Though he was aided by good backing defense (fielding-independent ERA of 3.12), there are some who believe he could be tested in the closer role, or at the very least, as a spot closer. He picked up three saves last season, and allowed about 0.5 homers per game, 1 homer less than Ugueth Urbina.
Adding a player like Howry is a very good strategy, and would make a good addition to virtually every team in baseball. Nearly every organization will be looking to add bullpen, including the Phillies, who could shortly see bullpen as their greatest need should Wagner sign with New York.
Without enough starters who can make it past the seventh inning, and with an offense capable of big innings, I come back to the same question over and over again: What’s the use of having a premium closer, and doesn’t a setup man become that much more important to bridge the gap?
If the Phils can’t secure a top-flight ninth-inning guy, it’s a logical strategy to go after one of the better eighth-inning guys, and use the money saved to get a less-expensive stopper, or even another set-up man and hope to catch lightning in a bottle with an experiment at closer, a la, the World Champion White Sox. In terms of Howry, I like the idea of flashing an arm at National League hitters and division rivals who my not have faced him before.
Knowing how many times Wagner warmed up and wasn't used, closer is an area I'd take a risk and go with a stopper with a smaller price tag. On the other hand, starting pitching is a commodity where I'd open the wallet, play it conservative and chase a sure bet.