Over the weekend in an article about American League East bullpen woes, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo mentioned that the Mets are getting calls about relief pitcher Bobby Parnell. There’s a lot of demand for bullpen arms due to the abundance of relief pitcher injuries and/or ineffectiveness across the league. Does that mean the Mets should trade a part of their future?
So far this season, Parnell has been fantastic. He struck out 16 batters in 12.2 innings while only allowed two walks. His 2.84 ERA would be even lower if not for a relatively high .361 BABIP. Additionally, Parnell’s 55.6% groundball rate this season would be a career high if he can keep it up all season.
It’s not a huge sample size, sure, but right now Parnell is by far the best Mets relief pitcher. Plus, it’s not like he’s been completely awful in recent years. In 2010, he had a 2.83 (2.25 FIP) in 35 innings and last season he had a 3.64 ERA (3.21 FIP) in 59.1 innings. At age 27, it wouldn’t be a huge shock for 2012 to turn into a career year for Parnell, and now more than ever it behooves teams to develop a closer from within the organization.
This off-season, Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year/$50 million contract to close games for the Phillies while Heath Bell signed with Miami for three years and $27 million. The Mets needed to shell out $12 millon over two years just to get Frank Francisco on the team. I think Francisco is fine, and I’ve got nothing against him, but the point is that closers are overpaid across the board simply because they pitch the ninth inning. Oftentimes, they don’t even pitch in high leverage situations.
With Parnell, the Mets have a pitcher in his prime who doesn’t hit free agency until 2016. If given a reasonable extension, the Mets can have him on the team for the next five or six years. After Francisco’s contract runs out, he’ll likely be named the team’s closer. With Parnell handling the ninth inning, the Mets would have a decent closer as well as some extra money in their pockets that they wouldn’t have to spend on an expensive free agent closer. That’s as long as Parnell doesn’t get traded this summer.
If the Mets trade a relief pitcher this summer, it should probably be Francisco, who won’t return the type of assets that Parnell would, but he’s relatively cheap and has been acceptably effective so far. With Parnell, the Mets have a part of the future that they would be trying to build by trading veterans, so he should be off-limits to all but the most tempting of deals.