A new team, and role, greets Putz
Former Mariners closer has ability to demand trade after 2009
NEW YORK -- The Mets steadfastly said that Aaron Heilman had value despite his poor performance in 2008. They saw Endy Chavez as the ultimate defense-oriented No. 4 outfielder. And they liked Joe Smith enough to identify him as one of the relievers they weren't likely to trade. Now, all three are gone, included in a three-team exchange involving 12 players that brought to New York a player seemingly displeased by the role that awaits him, a player who has the right to orchestrate his departure from Queens after one season.
J.J. Putz now is a closer in a role that typically provides few closing opportunities. Moreover, he can demand to be traded after the 2009 season. He becomes eligible for free agency after '09 if the Mets don't exercise an uncommonly expensive -- for a setup reliever -- option for 2010, $8.6 million. So there could be two avenues of escape available to him should he find setup relief, New York or something else not to his liking -- or should he believe he can find a closing position elsewhere.
Setup relief "would not be his preference," Putz's agent, Craig Landis, said when he learned of the deal late Wednesday. Later, Putz's comments included this: "It's not the ideal situation, but having the two of us at the back of the bullpen will be pretty strong. I will not change my approach at all. I will close the game in the eighth and give the ball to [newly acquired closer] Frankie [Rodriguez]."
Putz's comments appear to answer the question of whether he has the mind-set to pitch innings earlier than the ninth -- i.e., non-save situations. The best closers -- Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner, among them -- often have demonstrated an inability to prosper in non-save circumstances. Putz, 31, has been a full-time closer for three seasons. He has converted 91 of 108 opportunities in those seasons.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.