Mets revamp 'pen with two signings, SF trade
Amazin's ink Rauch, Francisco, deal Pagan for Torres, Ramirez
DALLAS -- In a stunning succession of rapid-fire moves, the Mets fortified their bullpen Tuesday by acquiring three new relievers in the span of roughly one hour, signing right-handers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to free-agent contracts, according to multiple sources, and trading for right-hander Ramon Ramirez of the Giants.
The trade with San Francisco also included a swap of outfielders Angel Pagan and Andres Torres. The Mets and Giants announced that deal on Wednesday.
The Mets have not confirmed the signings, which are pending physicals. Rauch's deal is for one year at a reported $3.5 million; Francisco's is for two at $12 million.
With those deals in place, the Mets filled their most pressing roster need -- bullpen help -- within two days of losing free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes to the Marlins. Rauch, Francisco and Ramirez all possess varying degrees of end-game experience; when asked who will close in 2012, one Mets official said: "We're going to let the guys compete for it, for sure."
"That was one of our big goals was to rebuild the bullpen," said the official, who requested anonymity because the transactions are not yet official.
And so after blowing saves at what general manager Sandy Alderson called "a spectacular rate" down the stretch last season, the Mets now possess what they hope are three worthy solutions.
Francisco, 32, saved 17 games for the Blue Jays with a 3.55 ERA last season, striking out 53 batters and walking 18. He teamed at the back of Toronto's bullpen with Rauch, 33, with whom the Mets agreed to terms earlier Tuesday evening. The tallest player in Major League history at 6-foot-11, Rauch owns a 3.82 career ERA over nine seasons with the White Sox, Nationals, D-backs, Twins and Jays.
Ramirez, 30, will join those two in New York. He was part of a committee that subbed for Giants closer Brian Wilson down the stretch last season, amassing four saves in five chances. Since a midseason trade to the Giants in 2010, Ramirez has posted a 2.07 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 37 walks.
In sum, the three new relievers represent New York's most significant bullpen overhaul since the Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez and traded for J.J. Putz and Sean Green at the Winter Meetings in 2008.
Like that overhaul, this renovation included a swap of ancillary players, shipping Pagan west in exchange for Torres and Ramirez. As recently as Monday afternoon, both Alderson and manager Terry Collins had spoken highly of Pagan as the team's center fielder and leadoff man in 2012, despite earlier indications that the club might not even tender him a contract.
Within the organization, there was genuine concern over Pagan. One year after breaking out with a .290 average, 11 home runs and strong center field play, Pagan hit just .262 with seven home runs in 2011 while appearing to regress defensively. In trading him, the Mets will no longer be on the hook for an arbitration ruling that could have valued his services as high as $5 million.
They will, however, owe arbitration money to Torres, 33, who made $2.2 million last season, and to Ramirez, who made $1.6 million. Like Pagan, Torres struggled to match a breakout season last year, mustering a .221 average and four home runs for the Giants after his 16-homer campaign in 2010.
Regardless, Torres will almost certainly take over for Pagan both in center field and at the leadoff position, where he appeared 78 times last season. Often subbing for the injured Reyes at the top of New York's order last season, Pagan on multiple occasions expressed his desire to hit lower in the lineup.
Combined, Tuesday's moves represent something a consolation for losing Reyes, whom the Marlins inked to a six-year, $106 million contract on Sunday evening. Because the Mets never intended to sign a replacement shortstop, Alderson indicated Sunday that he was planning on allocating much of the team's resulting cash to fortifying the bullpen.
It was by far the club's most pressing concern. Despite playing their home games in one of the league's foremost pitcher-friendly parks, Mets relievers ranked 28th in the Majors with a 4.33 ERA last season, combining to blow 24 saves. Bobby Parnell in particular struggled down the stretch as he auditioned to become the team's future closer, blowing four of his final seven save opportunities. Though the Mets should still enter next season with some combination of Parnell, Tim Byrdak, D.J. Carrasco and Manny Acosta in their bullpen, they have already completely revamped the group.
Now, Alderson's focus shifts to signing an affordable starting pitcher and filling out his bench on a budget. Given the cost savings of trading Pagan, the Mets used only about half their offseason money on Tuesday's moves. They should still be able to afford a starter and several supporting players without issue.
If nothing else, the new acquisitions should help ease the emotional sting of losing Reyes, who will be at the Hilton Anatole on Wednesday for his introductory news conference with the Marlins.
And so in that sense, in the span of one frantic hour on Tuesday, the Mets began the process of moving on.