- Braves 7-Mets 6:
Spending a load of money or relievers rarely works. There are closers who are worth the money and the risk. The Yankees had to keep Mariano Rivera even though he demanded an extra year that the Yankees were reluctant to give; whether or not it works out with Rivera, if there's any player who's earned a severance package for past production, it's Rivera. The Phillies took a chance on Brad Lidge and (even though in retrospect, they didn't give up anything to get him), he's been the difference between them and the rest of the NL East and is a viable Cy Young Award and MVP candidate.
As for the other "name" free agent relievers that signed contracts far above their value, some like Francisco Cordero have provided what was expected, but that hasn't resulted in his team, the Reds, contending in the short term. As the Reds mature, that signing may be seen as having been astute; it also helps that Cordero is a good influence on the Reds young pitchers. The veteran journeymen like David Riske and Ron Mahay were negligible signings based on the bottom line. Mahay's been very good, but that hasn't helped the Royals all that much; Riske was average at best and then got hurt.
Looking at the top teams in the big leagues this season and the best ones have developed their own relief pitchers (the Angels, Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox); and made smart, under-the-radar acquisitions (the Rays and Phillies). Teams like the Marlins just sign a bunch of guys who've been released or traded away for very little and give them a chance to pitch; they also let their younger pitchers have a shot. Teams have tried to build bullpens by signing recognizable names and it hasn't worked.
What I would do if I were the Mets would be to find a veteran closer to hold the fort in case of an emergency----names like Todd Jones or Brian Fuentes as potential stopgaps if they continue forward with Luis Ayala, John Maine or one of the young pitchers like Robert Parnell and they fail. Then I would trade Scott Schoeneweis. Schoeneweis has been adequate for much of his time with the Mets despite the boobirds he routinely hears, but he's going to be in the last year of a three-year contract and they could get something for him. Aaron Heilman either has to be packaged as part of a trade or given a chance to start because this bullpen thing isn't working; the guy looks like he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown every time he goes out there and it's clear that he's at the point where he hates being in the bullpen. Perhaps a team like the Nationals, who have a large array of hard throwing and useful relievers and need starters would be interested in a swap along the lines of Heilman for Saul Rivera and Jesus Colome.
Another maneuver I would consider would be contacting the Tigers, a team in need of bodies in the bullpen, and see if they'd be interested in dealing the risky and injury-prone Joel Zumaya (once he's given a clean bill of health). The Tigers would probably be happy to get someone like Heilman and/or Schoeneweis for a pitcher whose status is in question. Zumaya's a big risk with his injury history and flakiness, but with the way the Mets bullpen has been a wasteland, they can move forward as is or they can try something different. Scanning the waiver wire and dealing those that have been the main weak points over the past two seasons is a good place to start. They can't be any worse next year than they've been the past two Septembers.
- Phillies 5-Marlins 2: