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Mets Focusing On Trade For A Closer

Throughout the early offseason, Francisco Rodriguez and his agent, Paul Kinzer, have tried to angle toward getting the Mets interested in signing K-Rod as their next closer. So far, it hasn't worked. New York GM Omar Minaya hasn't said that he won't go after Rodriguez, but every whisper out of New York has had the Mets targeting a closer other than Ramirez, with work leaking last week that they were concerned about K-Rod's declining strikeout ratio.

Keep in mind that New York isn't ruling K-Rod out, they're just being careful not to admit that they're even interested in signing him (though they have reportedly received his medical records, which could be a start).

Well, now it appears that the Mets may be eschewing free agency as a means to shore up the late innings altogether, with word that they're targeting Mariners closer J.J. Putz as their primary option. New York's angling for Putz was reported by both the Rocky Mountain News' Tracy Ringolsby and ESPN's Jayson Stark, who wrote a piece yesterday that echoed exactly the point I was making here back on Nov. 7.

If the Putz rumors weren't enough, the New York Post's Joel Sherman is writing that the Mets are interested in Colorado asset (we can't really call him a player because he hasn't played for the Rockies yet) Huston Street, presumably as a Putz backup plan.

You can't blame the Mets for trying to trade for a closer instead of signing one. While K-Rod is angling for $15 million per year, J. J. Putz has an affordable, $13.8 million and two years left on his deal, and Huston Street is likely to end up a little cheaper after arbitration.

Sure, there are bound to be cheaper options -- Trevor Hoffman for a one-year fix, Kerry Wood over 2-3 years (though he's being pegged at $10-12 million), Brian Fuentes -- but why would the Mets capitulate to an overinflated market when they can get cost-certainty from a trade?

It's hard to tell who the Mets could send the other way to make a closer trade work, but they're known to be shopping former All Star second baseman Luis Castillo and Aaron Heilman may be available after asking (again! After three prior rejections!) to be used in the Mets rotation.

In the bigger picture, the Mets trading for a closer could have a drastic effect on the overall relief market. It takes one of the biggest potential suitors out of the picture overnight, leaving (potentially) the Angels as the lead suitor ... and no one knows if they want a closer at all.

It all just makes the picture for top shelf relief pitching even murkier, which is the last thing that agents like Kinzer were looking for.

By Cameron Smith  |  November 21, 2008; 6:44 PM ET
Categories:  Mets  
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