Jose Valverde will serve as the new closer for the Mets after Bobby Parnell was diagnosed with a partial MCL tear in his right elbow on Tuesday.
Yes, it's April Fools' Day and the words "Jose Valverde" and "closer" are being mentioned in the same sentence. But it's actually happening, and that might be one of the most Mets things ever.
In fairness to Valverde, he struck out three batters in 1⅓ innings of flawless work in the team's season-opening loss to the Nationals on Monday. However, the vibrant 36-year-old right-hander is no longer the pitcher that collected three All-Star selections in a five-year period.
Valverde's velocity is down four miles per hour from where it was in 2008, when he finished 24th in NL MVP voting after saving 44 games for the Astros. That's not always a tell-all sign, but Valverde was more hittable a year ago than he'd ever been before -- and he had an ERA of 0.75 and WHIP of 0.58 a month into the season before quickly flaming out with the Tigers last year, so beware of early success. He gave up 11 runs in eight games after that point before Detroit finally cut ties.
If Valverde regresses like he did in Detroit, Mets fans will be in for an adventure unlike anything they saw a last season, though part of that speaks to how good their closers were at limiting walks. Parnell and LaTroy Hawkins, who has since departed to become the Rockies' closer, combined to allow only 22 free passes in 120⅔ innings a year ago, good for a rate of about 1.6 per nine.
The Mets don't have a large margin for error, so having a guy who has proven to be a shadow of his former self over the past couple of seasons filling in as closer will likely produce less-than-desirable results. And in that case, manager Terry Collins and company will have a decision to make. Kyle Farnsworth, who was recalled by the club in the aftermath of the news about Parnell, would certainly be one option -- although he's not exactly who he used to be, either. The other in-house options don't look promising, although Jeurys Familia has the stuff -- though not necessarily the control -- to perhaps someday excel in the role.