Mets closer rumors: If Jose Valverde struggles, who's next in line?

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Parnell might be done for the year, and Papa Grande's superstitious spitting robot routine might not translate in 2014.

Quick! Go pick up Jose Valverde for your fantasy team! Oh, and pick up Kyle Farnsworth as a handcuff while you're at it!

Eh, on second and third thought, maybe don't. Might not be worth the trouble.

It could work. Valverde and Farnsworth could flash their vintage selves on everyone and the Mets could have a white-hot rising phoenix/Dennis Quaid bullpen that helps them surprise the NL East on their way to an unlikely division title. That could happen.

And some kind of advanced extraterrestrial life form could find Carl Sagan's Gold Record mutely coasting through space, decipher the binary, and find their way to Earth bearing mystic tales from another corner of the universe.

Not very likely though -- sorry, Cosmos.

The Mets called up Farnsworth, who turns 38 in a few weeks, to give them a veteran arm to lean on in the haphazard botch-ring they call "the bullpen." Farnsworth pitched 38⅓ innings last year for the Rays and Pirates, posting a 4.70 ERA and his worst strikeout rate since the beginning of this century -- 6.6 strikeouts per nine last year against 4.8 in 1999 when he was a starter for the Cubs.

Valverde is also pushing 40. He appeared to be done in Detroit last season, but injuries brought him back to the team. They plugged him right back into the closer's role. It went poorly. In 19⅓ innings, he saved nine games in 18 appearances, put up a 5.59 ERA, and kept up his bid to become the major archbishop of baseball's Ministry of Silly walks.

It's easy to see why fans are particularly enamored with this backup plan.

Parnell has been excellent for the Mets over the last year and a half, but this spring his velocity was way down. He had averaged 95 mph on his fastball over the last two seasons. In a 20-pitch sample this season, he averaged just 92 mph. That's a continental shelf drop off. Much like the early concerns with Stephen Strasburg's diminished velocity, Parnell's slower fastball could have been nothing, but it could have been a sign as well.

In any event, he's gone. Out for at least two weeks, and probably much longer. He has a "partially torn medial lateral ligament" in his pitching elbow. Two other Mets with the same injury, Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner, both had Tommy John.

The Mets' long-term answer for the ninth inning might not even be in the organization at the moment, but of the guys that are currently with the team, Farnsworth seems like he'd be next up if Valverde isn't up to it. Again, they're both old -- assuming the carbon dating is accurate -- and they've struggled recently.

The team could opt to bring up top prospect Noah Syndergaard and use him like the Rays and Cardinals used David Price and Adam Wainwright, but those teams were deep in playoff pushes when they made those calls. The Mets probably won't be -- especially if guys keep hitting the DL. These injuries aren't likely to affect the way the Mets handle Syndergaard.

Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres are the guys that stand out on the current roster. Torres is a pretty soft tosser, but he showed a deft ability to avoid free passes last season. In 86⅓ innings, he walked just 17 batters and posted a 3.44 ERA. His numbers would have looked a lot better if he hadn't been sting by homers. His home run to flyball ratio ended up at 16.3% to finish the year against a career 12.5% rate.

Familia has traditional back-end velocity. He doesn't touch triple digits or anything, but he's averaged just over 95 mph in 23⅔ career innings. He's had trouble with walks in his career at the major and minor league levels. That generosity might not be conducive to a long career as a pillar in the ninth inning.

New York could also choose to call up Jake deGrom. He's projected to start games rather than finish them, but desperate times ...

From Amazin' Avenue: "The key for deGrom this year will be the refinement of his secondary pitches, specifically which breaking ball he intends to focus on going forward. In the middle of last season deGrom switched from a slider to a curveball, bucking the trend within the organization to favor the slider over the curve. He has shown good control throughout his career, so refining his repertoire and showing an ability to miss bats at the highest levels will be crucial if he is to stick as a starter."

Late leads could be shaky for the Mets this season unless one of these guys emerges as a serviceable closer.

But that's the funny thing about closers: They come from nowhere sometimes. Whoever gets the call, Mets general manager would be wise to load up one of these guys with as many saves as he can get him. In that case, Alderson could follow the lead of the White Sox' Rick Hahn in trading a relatively low-value commodity for an asset to a team that still evaluates players using statistics that are beyond that player's control.

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