The Mets' pursuit of Putz underscores the extent to which they want to rebuild their bullpen, which blew a crippling 29 saves last season and led to a September collapse for the second year in a row. Only a day ago, New York signed closer Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million deal with a vesting option for a fourth year.
Apparently Putz would be utilized as the eighth-inning setup reliever. He had 15 saves last season while fighting injuries, and had 40 saves in 2007 and 36 in 2006. He is owed $6 million next season, the last year of his contract, although there is a club option for $8.6 million in 2010.
Mets GM Omar Minaya said he'd identified Rodriguez and Putz as the best two closers on the market at the start of the offseason.
“I'm not going to tell you which order,” Minaya said, smiling. “I'm going to keep that to myself.”
Weeks ago he began the process to acquire Putz as his closer. Late Wednesday night, after it had become evident he had to move quickly on Rodriguez, he acquired Putz as his setup man. He said he expects Putz – who saved 91 games over the past three seasons – to take that role gracefully.
“Well, it's about winning championships,” he said. “To win a ring, you're going to have to sacrifice yourself.”
In addition to Putz, the Mets acquired 6-foot-6 right-handed reliever Sean Green and backup outfielder Jeremy Reed. The Indians picked up reliever Joe Smith from the Mets and infielder Luis Valbuena from the Mariners.
The Mariners got the biggest haul, acquiring outfielder Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians, outfielder Endy Chavez and swingman Aaron Heilman from the Mets in addition to four prospects – Jason Vargas, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera and Maikel Cleto.
Carp was a key to the deal, a source said. A power-hitting first baseman from Long Beach, Calif., Carp was a ninth-round pick of the Mets in 2004 who batted .299 with 17 home runs in Double-A last season.