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Black Friday has nothing on Reliever Tuesday at the Winter Meetings.
Sandy Alderson got on line early for the big sale on relief pitchers and came home with all of his Christmas shopping done in no time at all.
Within about an hour on Tuesday night, the Mets announced three different moves that landed them three right-handed arms that help replenish a bullpen that looked awfully thin on Tuesday morning.
Alderson clearly saw something he liked in what looked like an ordinary Blue Jays bullpen because he signed Jon Rauch to a one-year, $3.5 million deal and then added Rauch's 2011 teammate Frank Francisco to a two-year, $12 million deal a short time later. Alderson then traded Angel Pagan to the Giants for center fielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.
That last move is the most interesting of the lot because of the Pagan-Torres swap. Ramirez has had several good years in a row for the Giants and should be a useful enough arm in the pen next season to make the trade look good.
Pagan and Torres both had great 2010 seasons at the plate before suffering through terrible 2011 campaigns. The big difference is that Torres remained a stellar defensive player while Pagan started chasing fly balls with a GPS that didn't know that one was supposed to get to them as quickly as possible.
There were also some whispers of attitude issues and, generally, Alderson didn't seem to like Pagan, who is due to make in the neighborhood of $5 million this season. So it is hardly a huge loss, except that you're banking on a player that's four years older to bounce back at the plate without any other choice in center field.
Torres and Ramirez will make less combined than Pagan, though, and with Lucas Duda in right, they need to have a capable defender in center field. Pagan feels like a better bet to bounce back, but you can certainly see why the Mets made this deal and where it winds up helping the entire roster.
Francisco will probably be the closer next summer based off his close to the season with Toronto. He's a perfectly decent strikeout pitcher who has shuffled in and out of closer jobs over the years that sprinkled him with the proven closer fairy dust that makes general managers hand out too much money and an extra year for a pitcher who doesn't really deserve either.
That bit of negativity aside, Francisco should be a reasonable closer for a team that lost far too many leads after dealing away Francisco Rodriguez last season. The Mets need to hold onto the leads they stumble into next season and Francisco will help them do that.
Rauch won't, as he is notable mostly for being 6'10" (which, after the Chris Young signing last year gives the Mets the honor of signing the tallest pitcher in two straight offseasons! Here we go!) and having a serious love for body art.
He's not a good pitcher, but it should look very funny when he stands next to the 5'6" Daniel Herrera at bullpen get-togethers so the team should make that happen as much as possible.
These moves aren't sexy, obviously, but that's not the problem with making them. You don't need to win the headlines -- and won't win them as long as the Marlins have turned themselves into the Yankees of the '80s -- to make moves that start moving the train back toward contention.
What's disappointing about these moves is that they are a bit short in the creativity department. Turning Pagan into two contributors has its charms, but the two reliever signings are about as routine as you can get.
They definitely make the bullpen better and deeper heading into next season. Given the amount of relievers on the market and the play of the ones who fall into the level that the Mets are dealing with, though, it seems hard to believe that you need to spend $10 million on two of them to get the same kind of production.
Francisco is getting paid too much for what he is, but once you have him and you've added Ramirez, what's the point of adding a mediocre pitcher like Rauch for $3.5 million? What you have on hand is better and you could find something better on the scrap heap for less money although they won't have spent brief periods of time closing games like Rauch.
These moves are a net gain for the Mets, but it would be nice to see the thinking get a little bit more out of the box than just grabbing the closest available warm body to fill a role.