Off-Season Moves Bolster the Bullpen

Heading into the off-season, the Mets' front office knew moves had to be made to bolster a shaky bullpen that victimized the club for much of the season. Through free agency and trades, the Mets added high-value depth highlighted by the signing of Francisco Rodriguez and the trade for J.J. Putz.

The Mets went 78-7 when leading after eight innings last season. The Phillies went 79-0 in those situations, beating the Mets by three games in the National League East. So priority No. 1 for the Mets this winter was revamping the bullpen.

Mission accomplished.

The signing of former Angel Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million deal -- and the trade for ex-Mariners closer J.J. Putz to serve as K-Rod's setup man -- should better secure those late-inning leads.

"You go out and get two top closers, you're going to address a serious problem they thought they had last year," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "They did it in a big way. We, as the Braves and Phillies, have to concentrate on winning the game in the first seven innings so we don't have to worry about the eighth and ninth."
After re-signing left-handed starter Oliver Perez on Feb. 3, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon projected the Mets' 2009 payroll at $143 million, which is comparable to last year's total. Despite the sizable expenditure, Mets fans clamored for the organization to sign Manny Ramirez as well, which general manager Omar Minaya definitively ruled out.

"We really accomplished what we've set out to do this winter," Minaya said. "We're going to look around for some of those smaller pieces, but as far as big moves, our priorities have been met."

With Perez back for three years at $36 million, the Mets rotation will look similar to the 2008 model. The lone exception: Freddy Garcia or Tim Redding replaces Pedro Martinez, whom Minaya said the Mets are now unlikely to re-sign.

The starting lineup stays intact, too. That means the Mets will count on production from a left field platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis. They also will need improvement from Luis Castillo, and for Ryan Church to put behind him a pair of concussions that marred his 2008 season.

WHERE, WHEN: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Sean Green didn't get much hype when he arrived from Seattle with J.J. Putz in a December trade, but Mets officials expect the 6-foot-6 right-hander to play an integral role in the bullpen. Green, 29, went 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 160 relief appearances for the Mariners during the past three seasons.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: Picking up 1B Carlos Delgado's $12 million option for 2009 became a no-brainer after he hit .313 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs over his final 300 at-bats of last season. Still, Delgado was hitting just .228 entering July last year, and it's possible his age and a career spent primarily playing on artificial turf in Toronto could catch up to him at age 36.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Jerry Manuel, who posted a 55-38 record after taking over for fired Willie Randolph in June, runs his first spring training camp as Mets skipper. The former American League Manager of the Year with the White Sox wants to run a disciplined camp that focuses on fundamentals, but most of his top players will miss significant time to participate in the World Baseball Classic, making that objective more challenging.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Oliver Perez signed a three-year, $36 million contract to remain a Met. His 2008 numbers against the rival Phillies were particularly impressive: one run allowed in 26 innings.

--C Brian Schneider is expected to remain in camp rather than participate in the World Baseball Classic. Team USA is expected to select Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta as the country's WBC catchers.

--Former Mets players Julio Franco and Mike DiFelice plan to return to the organization as minor league managers. DiFelice is expected to manage rookie-level Kingsport, while Franco is expected to manage the Gulf Coast League team.

--LHP Pedro Feliciano has settled with the Mets on a one-year, $1.61 million contract. Feliciano's agreement leaves the Mets with no arbitration hearings.

--CF Fernando Martinez traveled to New York to have an inflamed right elbow examined. The organization's top prospect had a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Jose Vaquedano to give Licey (Dominican Republic) a 2-1 win against Ponce (Puerto Rico) on Feb. 3 in the Caribbean Series before heading for the checkup.

--RHP Elmer Dessens agreed to a minor league contract with the Mets and was invited to spring training. Dessens, 38, made four relief appearances for the Braves last season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 32 -- Wins by Pedro Martinez during his expired four-year, $53 million contract with the Mets. GM Omar Minaya has acknowledged it's unlikely Martinez will return now that LHP Oliver Perez has been re-signed.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a huge David Wright fan. How could you not want to sit back and see how David Wright goes about his business, how he mentally prepares for games? David Wright is the best third baseman in the National League, if not all of baseball." -- Braves 3B Chipper Jones, on his World Baseball Classic teammate.

MEDICAL WATCH:

--LHP Johan Santana (left knee surgery in October 2008) should be fine for spring training.
--RHP John Maine (surgery to shave a bony growth near right shoulder in September 2008) should be on a regular schedule in spring training.
--LHP Billy Wagner (Tommy John surgery in September 2008) might return for the final month of the 2009 season.
--RHP Darren O'Day (torn labrum) opted to rehab over the winter rather than have surgery. The Mets expect the Rule 5 pick will be able to compete for a bullpen spot.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nThe Mets went 78-7 when leading after eight innings last season. The Phillies \r\nwent 79-0 in those situations, beating the Mets by three games in the National \r\nLeague East. So priority No. 1 for the Mets this winter was revamping the \r\nbullpen.
\r\n
\r\nMission accomplished.
\r\n
\r\nThe signing of former Angel Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million \r\ndeal -- and the trade for ex-Mariners closer J.J. Putz to serve as K-Rod's setup \r\nman -- should better secure those late-inning leads.
\r\n
\r\n\"You go out and get two top closers, you're going to address a serious \r\nproblem they thought they had last year,\" Braves third baseman Chipper Jones \r\nsaid. \"They did it in a big way. We, as the Braves and Phillies, have to \r\nconcentrate on winning the game in the first seven innings so we don't have to \r\nworry about the eighth and ninth.\"
\r\nAfter re-signing left-handed starter Oliver Perez on Feb. 3, chief operating \r\nofficer Jeff Wilpon projected the Mets' 2009 payroll at $143 million, which is \r\ncomparable to last year's total. Despite the sizable expenditure, Mets fans \r\nclamored for the organization to sign Manny Ramirez as well, which general \r\nmanager Omar Minaya definitively ruled out.
\r\n
\r\n\"We really accomplished what we've set out to do this winter,\" Minaya said. \r\n\"We're going to look around for some of those smaller pieces, but as far as big \r\nmoves, our priorities have been met.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith Perez back for three years at $36 million, the Mets rotation will look \r\nsimilar to the 2008 model. The lone exception: Freddy Garcia or Tim Redding \r\nreplaces Pedro Martinez, whom Minaya said the Mets are now unlikely to re-sign.
\r\n
\r\nThe starting lineup stays intact, too. That means the Mets will count on \r\nproduction from a left field platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis. They \r\nalso will need improvement from Luis Castillo, and for Ryan Church to put behind \r\nhim a pair of concussions that marred his 2008 season.
\r\n
\r\nWHERE, WHEN: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla. First exhibition game is \r\nFeb. 25 against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.
\r\n
\r\nTOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Sean Green didn't get much hype when he \r\narrived from Seattle with J.J. Putz in a December trade, but Mets officials \r\nexpect the 6-foot-6 right-hander to play an integral role in the bullpen. Green, \r\n29, went 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 160 relief appearances for the Mariners during \r\nthe past three seasons.
\r\n
\r\nTOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: Picking up 1B Carlos Delgado's $12 million \r\noption for 2009 became a no-brainer after he hit .313 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs \r\nover his final 300 at-bats of last season. Still, Delgado was hitting just .228 \r\nentering July last year, and it's possible his age and a career spent primarily \r\nplaying on artificial turf in Toronto could catch up to him at age 36.
\r\n
\r\nAUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Jerry Manuel, who posted a 55-38 record after \r\ntaking over for fired Willie Randolph in June, runs his first spring training \r\ncamp as Mets skipper. The former American League Manager of the Year with the \r\nWhite Sox wants to run a disciplined camp that focuses on fundamentals, but most \r\nof his top players will miss significant time to participate in the World \r\nBaseball Classic, making that objective more challenging.
\r\n
\r\nNOTES, QUOTES
\r\n
\r\n--LHP Oliver Perez signed a three-year, $36 million contract to remain a Met. \r\nHis 2008 numbers against the rival Phillies were particularly impressive: one \r\nrun allowed in 26 innings.
\r\n
\r\n--C Brian Schneider is expected to remain in camp rather than participate in \r\nthe World Baseball Classic. Team USA is expected to select Brian McCann and \r\nChris Iannetta as the country's WBC catchers.
\r\n
\r\n--Former Mets players Julio Franco and Mike DiFelice plan to return to the \r\norganization as minor league managers. DiFelice is expected to manage \r\nrookie-level Kingsport, while Franco is expected to manage the Gulf Coast League \r\nteam.
\r\n
\r\n--LHP Pedro Feliciano has settled with the Mets on a one-year, $1.61 million \r\ncontract. Feliciano's agreement leaves the Mets with no arbitration hearings.
\r\n
\r\n--CF Fernando Martinez traveled to New York to have an inflamed right elbow \r\nexamined. The organization's top prospect had a pinch-hit, two-run homer off \r\nJose Vaquedano to give Licey (Dominican Republic) a 2-1 win against Ponce \r\n(Puerto Rico) on Feb. 3 in the Caribbean Series before heading for the checkup.
\r\n
\r\n--RHP Elmer Dessens agreed to a minor league contract with the Mets and was \r\ninvited to spring training. Dessens, 38, made four relief appearances for the \r\nBraves last season.
\r\n
\r\nBY THE NUMBERS: 32 -- Wins by Pedro Martinez during his expired four-year, \r\n$53 million contract with the Mets. GM Omar Minaya has acknowledged it's \r\nunlikely Martinez will return now that LHP Oliver Perez has been re-signed.
\r\n
\r\nQUOTE TO NOTE: \"I'm a huge David Wright fan. How could you not want to sit \r\nback and see how David Wright goes about his business, how he mentally prepares \r\nfor games? David Wright is the best third baseman in the National League, if not \r\nall of baseball.\" -- Braves 3B Chipper Jones, on his World Baseball Classic \r\nteammate.
\r\n
\r\nMEDICAL WATCH:
\r\n
\r\n--LHP Johan Santana (left knee surgery in October 2008) should be fine for \r\nspring training.
\r\n--RHP John Maine (surgery to shave a bony growth near right shoulder in \r\nSeptember 2008) should be on a regular schedule in spring training.
\r\n--LHP Billy Wagner (Tommy John surgery in September 2008) might return for the \r\nfinal month of the 2009 season.
\r\n--RHP Darren O'Day (torn labrum) opted to rehab over the winter rather than \r\nhave surgery. The Mets expect the Rule 5 pick will be able to compete for a \r\nbullpen spot.
\r\n
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