What a wild week in the Big Apple. The winter meetings brought in a few fresh faces to New York, most notably CC Sabathia to the New York Yankees. But there's another baseball team in New York, and they made a few key moves too.
The New York Mets are coming off of their second straight season that they lost the division in September. This past season's melt-down is partly (and mostly) credited to the bullpen's 25+ blown save mark. That should all change in 2009, because the Mets landed Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod just saved an MLB-record 62 saves this past year and should be able to keep most of the leads his offense will give him in the upcoming season. Even if he doesn't save as many games as in the 2008 season (which is very likely), he will improve the Mets' bullpen a lot more than anyone else. Instead of having Aaron Heilman coming in to save (or throw away) games with his ERA that jumped over 5.00 this season, Rodriguez, with an ERA below 2.50, will step in and most likely seal the deal and give New York a "W".
So, what about Heilman? Would the Mets look forward to him being their set-up man? No, not at all. He was dealt to Seattle on Thursday in a trade that also included the Cleveland Indians. Along with Heilman, the Mets unloaded Endy Chavez (a backup with low numbers) and a few other low-profile players to Seattle and Joe Smith, who had the best ERA out of the Mets' whole bullpen before the winter meetings, to Cleveland. In return, New York received set-up man J.J. Putz, another pitcher in Sean Green, and outfielder Jeremy Reed. Green and Reed are both mediocre players, but Putz might be able to do more good than bad with his new team. His 2008-ERA of 3.88 is lower than everyone that was on the Mets bullpen before these two deals except for Joe Smith, and Smith is out of town now. That means Putz has to pitch effectively every time he is called to the mound, and it seems like he'll do better than the guys who were around last year.
What do these two big waves mean for the rest of the National League East? It means that everyone should expect to play competitively with the Mets for a full nine innings. No collapses late in games. No blown saves. Comfortable leads will be hard to take back. Putz and Rodriguez will give something to the Mets that they really haven't had in a while--reliable pitchers who don't bail the opponents out of the holes they put themselves into. Just think--if the Mets only blew 50% of the saves they threw away last season, the Phillies wouldn't have won the division and probably wouldn't have gotten in the postseason through wildcard, either. That thought should and probably will become a reality starting Opening Day 2009, sometime around the 8th or 9th inning.