By Mike Steffanos
What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but Omar Minaya left there with a couple of arms that are likely to pay some dividends in Citi Field next summer.
In a move that most of us expected, the Mets moved quickly in signing Francisco Rodriguez to a 3-year, $37 million contract. You could see the stars aligning for that one, and the real question seemed to be what it would cost rather than would it get done.
While there is no guarantee that any pitcher is going to come here and succeed, Rodriguez seems as good of a bet as anyone, despite a fastball that isn't what it once was. Still, even if he comes here and does the job in the ninth, the question of how the Mets would get to the ninth inning still remained.
I had a feeling the next move would come by trade rather than signing, but I didn't expect it to come quite so quickly. In making the trade for Seattle's J.J. Putz, the Mets landed a power arm that their bullpen sorely lacked last season. He was one of the best closers in the game 2 years ago. Although injuries slowed him last season, he still struck out 56 batters in 46.1 innings. If he's fully recovered, he's arguably a more dominant pitcher than K-Rod.
The worry, of course, is that the injuries linger. Putz will turn 32 in February and had some elbow issues last season. Balance that risk against the reward of having a guy who struck out 104 in 78.1 innings in 2006 and held opponents to a ridiculous .153/.202/.252 batting line in his 2007 campaign.
If Duaner Sanchez can regain a little more arm strength the Mets will have the luxury of 3 late inning relievers who can retire both lefties and righties -- hopefully alleviating the need to use 6 pitchers for 9 outs. Other guys like Pedro Feliciano and Brian Stokes can fall into roles more suited for their talents.
More on this and what the Mets gave up in more detail this weekend, but I do like very much what Minaya has accomplished. The 2006 Mets rode a dominant bullpen to within a game of the World Series, and I honestly believe that Minaya has put the major pieces in place for another very good 'pen.