Mets Tab Francisco and Rauch to Revamp Bullpen

In a pair of moves that is sure to inspire derision, the Mets signed former Blue Jays Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to revamp the back end of their bullpen. While the pair made for an underwhelming duo in Toronto, there are a more than a few reasons to like these deals for the Mets.

Judged by blown saves and bullpen blowups, Francisco may be a strange choice for closer. The sometimes blustery character once threw a chair and broke a fan’s nose, and a pair of ill-timed bad stretches have cost him the closer role in Texas and Toronto before. He’s also not the most durable fellow, having averaged a mere 48 innings per season over his seven-year career — without counting the year he missed after Tommy John surgery in 2005.

He’s managed 4.1 WAR over the last four season, or 1.5 over the last two seasons, too, so $12 million for two years could be seen as an overpay. Lastly, in the light of the team’s unwillingness to pay Jose Reyes $18 million a year for six years, it might seem like folly to spend a third of that on a closer. On a team that isn’t likely to compete in a suddenly tough division.

Despite all of that, there are reasons to like the Francisco signing.

Most of them have to do with the market. In a market that saw Jonathan Papelbon go for $50 million, it’s obvious that WAR is not always the measuring stick for closers. Speaking of Papelbon, he’s had a 10.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 over the last four years. Francisco? 10.5, 3.2 and 1.0 respectively. Not the same quality, and Paps had more quantity, but Frankie Frank will cost much, much less.

It seems that if you construct a bullpen these days, you either have the fortune of having a cost-controlled young pitcher that you can use at closer, or you overpay on the free agent market. Virtually no free agent closer has been worth his money in recent years — even Kyle Farnsworth was paid $3.25 million for his 0.9 WAR, meaning he was barely a bargain. So the measuring stick can change a little. The point then becomes to get your free agent closer for fewer dollars and fewer years than your competition.

In this effort, the Mets should prove to be among the leaders. The Padres, Red Sox and a mystery team may yet sign a cheaper closer, or they may go with the cheaper home-grown pitchers already on their roster. Francisco Rodriguez and Ryan Madson aren’t likely to sign for $12 million over two years, and are in fact now rumored to be headed back to their old teams in the arbitration process. The closers that have already signed have all signed for more money. The Twins only guaranteed Matt Capps $4.5 million, but Francisco is a better pitcher… and could yet establish trade value. If two years of Matt Capps once brought a team Wilson Ramos, two years of Francisco at a decent price could establish trade value.

The last reason to like Francisco may be dubious, considering the changes that Citi Field is currently undergoing. But, at least by park factors, Francisco is moving to the best home park situation he’s ever enjoyed. He’s had an xFIP that has beaten his ERA for the past three years. He’s also shown a home run rate over one, and his HR/FB was 12.7% last year. The park factors for home runs in Texas were 119/114 for lefties and righties, and 114/116 in Toronto. In Citi last year, those numbers were 90 and 94 respectively. A year with fewer home runs would also help Francisco establish some trade value.

Much of the same could be said about Rauch. His deal is for $3.5 million and one year, he can close if Francisco goes for his annual DL stint, and he had a 1.9 HR/9 built on a 12.9% HR/FB last year. He probably won’t have any trade value, but he’s decent enough insurance on a short contract. With newcomer Ramon Ramirez in town as well, the Mets should have revamped their bullpen for about $13 million, or two million more than Papelbon’s salary in 2012.

There are reasons not to like these deals — dollars per win, Francisco’s health, Rauch’s mediocrity, the current state of the Mets — but the fact remains that Bobby Parnell has not proven he can be a cheap closer, the Mets revamped a sorry bullpen for a decent price, and they may have even acquired a piece with future trade value. And not a single one of these pitchers will be on the roster in 2014 unless the team wants them back.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

14 Responses to “Mets Tab Francisco and Rauch to Revamp Bullpen”

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  1. tom says:

    I think Ramirez is the best pitcher in this pen am I wrong?

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  2. jcxy says:

    the francisco deal is absolutely worth the risk at that price. but it does make me wonder…why spend that kind of money on the bullpen at all? especially given the met’s place on the win curve now that reyes left…

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      With the teams’ financial woes, I think there is actually some value in staying close to .500 — the acostapalypse / bobby fastball connection last year was gut-wrenching and upset the fan base a lot. Plus, possible trade value thing.

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    • Astromets says:

      huh? Because they want people to come to watch the Mets. Also because the bullpen has been a black hole since 2006 and is probably the most flexible area of the team that can be upgraded w/o worrying about moving some burdening contracts.

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    • jesse says:

      I agree with most of what eno said. Aside from giving francisco two years if it wasn’t totally necessary (which it may have been, i really don’t know). Relievers are overpaid, its true, but unlike other means of attracting things that make a team watchable if it doesn’t require long term commitments than it achieves that goal while providing flexibility in the rebuild. If the rest of the team ends up sucking and any of these pieces are decent, they are trade bait. If the rest of the team is decent, one of these guys will likely be good enough to close and avoid the terrible situation of a decent team with shit bull pens which after 07 mets fans have a particular dislike of.
      I’m not crazy, i won’t include how this plays out if the mets have a good team next year.
      I’m actually quite pleased with these moves. I’m pretty sure the real alternative for alderson was to do pretty much nothing. The only other move I hope we pull off is oswalt on a three year 26 million dollar package.

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  3. Josh B says:

    IMO the Mets did great. The trade with the Giants was a one-sided blowout. Sabean got taken bigtime. Pagan is one of the worst defensive center-fielders of all time. Giants pitching staff is going to take a huge hit swapping him in for Torres.

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  4. Chris says:

    well, Francisco would be on the roster in 2013 since this is a two-year deal, no?

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  5. Adam M says:

    Regarding park factors, don’t forget that Citi Field’s walls are being lowered and brought in this off-season.

    Otherwise agree with the pros and cons of the signing! Nice work.

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  6. vivalajeter says:

    I initially thought Rauch was a decent signing at a low salary, but a couple hours later (after the trade and the Francisco signing), it just seems like an unnecessary move. With Francisco/Ramirez on board, was it necessary to spend another $3.5MM on someone like Rauch? I’m thinking they would’ve been better off using that money towards a SP, but overall it was a good few hours for Alderson.

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  7. Chris Blessing says:

    I like the Francisco signing a lot in this market. I hope his arm doesn’t fall off as some pointed out last night

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  8. Steve says:

    What’s the expression, lipstick on a pig?

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    • Jack Straw says:

      Yup, that’s the one. Lipstick, meet pig. Pig, lipstick.

      A ludicrous offseason for the Mets. As someone recently wrote,

      My feeling is that he [Alderson] simply doesn’t give a ####, in a real sense. He knows this team is ###### as long as the Wilpons own it, so why bother? Isn’t it almost received truth that the LAST thing a competent GM spends his money on is the ‘pen? Don’t we routinely hear that the one thing a good GM can do, the real measure of a good GM, is his ability to cobble together a pen with tin snips, baling wire, and puppy dog tails? So what’s the FIRST thing Alderson did this offseason?

      I admit this sounds facetious, but it satisfies Occam’s razor. The explanation otherwise is that Alderson forgot how to GM in the last year or so. It’s instead easier to imagine Alderson, Ricciardi and DePodesta sitting around as of a month ago, knowing payroll to start the season would be under $100m, knowing that Einhorn had walked, agreeing there was no point to wracking their brains about any of this, and deciding to take the low road–with a vengeance.

      All three took their jobs thinking things were going to be radically different, that they were going to be working for smart, new ownership in the biggest market in the United States. They all have to be feeling seriously, professionally screwed right about now, so they did what they did. You have to admit, it’s pretty funny. It’s actually VERY funny. They spent the ENTIRE offseason budget of a 77-win team with no hope of contending next season on the bullpen. That’s hilarious.

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