The Case For Keeping Bobby Parnell
Recently, a quick Google search of “Bobby Parnell trade” will bring you links to dozens of people calling for Parnell to be shopped for young outfield help, in particular Nick Castellanos of the Tigers. The cases for dealing Parnell usually include one or more of the following arguments; am I the only one who doesn’t really find any of these compelling?
Argument #1: Parnell is having an odd, fluky, career year and will never see this success again!
Yes, it’s true that Parnell struggled in the closer role in 2012 as well as 2011. It’s true that during those seasons he was 13/24 in save opportunities, a feeble 54.2% conversion rate. But what’s also true is this: if you’ve watched him pitch prior to this year and this year, he’s not the same pitcher. What’s also true is that in neither of those seasons was he the closer to begin the year (K-Rod was in 2011, Francisco in 2012).
Parnell is 14/17 so far in his first full season with the job, and has been a nearly perfect 12/13 since May. And while his K/9IP rate has dropped from 9.71 in 2011 to 7.71 in 2013, the important stat is that his BB/9IP rate has dropped from 4.1 in 2011 to 2.06 so far this year. Both of these drops are due to a 2 MPH decrease in average fastball velocity from 2011 to 2013 (97.2 to 95.2). While normally that would be a little bit of a red flag, in this case, it’s not at all. In fact, it’s the opposite: a sign of maturity. Simply put, he’s not just rearing back and overthrowing to the plate anymore.
Batters also hit .345 against him in 2011 compared to .250 over the past two years. Anybody can hit 97 if it’s left up and over the zone. 95 on the black? Not so easy to hit. So while he’s had to rely more on pitching to contact and painting the corners, he’s not exactly doing a horrible job of it.
Listen, Parnell isn’t blessed with the natural stuff of a Craig Kimbrel or a Mariano Rivera…but there are very positive signs that he’s learning (and doing) what he needs to do to become a successful closer. I’m not sure it would be smart to deal him without seeing what he can do with the support that’s soon to be there.
Argument #2: Parnell is a waste to have in the pen on a team that’s never winning in the 9th!
While it’s difficult to pinpoint one singular problem that’s plagued the Mets over the past few dreadful seasons, we can all agree that the bullpen sure as hell hasn’t been a strength. Would another young outfielder (a topic I’ll address soon) really be worth trading one of the lone bright spots out of the pen for?
If the Mets were headed nowhere fast, I’d be on board for shopping Parnell ASAP. But we all hope know they’ve finally reached their long-awaited upturn. We’ve seen hints of it this season (especially over the last two or three weeks) and there’s little reason to believe the Mets won’t at least be contenders by next season and legitimate contenders within a few more years.
With Cesar Puello waiting in the ranks, Juan Lagares (who batted .271 in June) and Eric Young Jr. showing some early signs of success and hopefully an offseason addition like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo or Hunter Pence, the Mets’ 2014 outfield situation isn’t shaping up to look nearly as bad as many think. Add in a possible shop-job of Marlon Byrd to grab another prospect, and things are looking pretty bright, certainly bright enough to at least consider keeping Parnell around.
Argument #3: It will be easy for the Mets to find someone to replace Parnell!
Uh, no it won’t. You can’t expect to be successful finding a closer by trial and error. It’s not logical in the slightest. Look at the teams that have dominated baseball over the past ten or so years. Yankees (pains me to admit it)? Full-time closer. Cardinals? Full-time closer. Giants? Red Sox? Braves as of late? You see the point.
Just because Parnell’s become more valuable doesn’t mean he needs to be traded. Guess what: Jeurys Familia, the next closer in line once he returns from injury, will be there next year, whether Parnell is on the Mets or not. If this really is just a fluke year (which it’s not), the most realistic option that the Mets have of replacing him will be on the table in 2014 any way.
The role of closer is unique to every other position in the game. Some guys have the mental capacity to deal with it, others don’t. For many, it takes time. It’s not the type of role where you just platoon pitchers until they succeed. It’s no accident that in his first full season as the uncontested closer, Parnell is seeing the most success he’s seen thus far in his career.
For a team that’s been taking huge leaps forward as of late, dealing Parnell may very well be a gigantic step backward. Bullpen help is not as easy to come by as people write it off to be; Parnell is much more valuable to the Mets’ future than you might think.
* * * * * * * *
Ken Rosenthal said a Mets front office source told him that the Mets would need to be blown away to trade Bobby Parnell at the trade deadline. That would make perfect sense and the whole notion of trading our first homegrown closer since Randy Myers seems ridiculous and would make the argument by Sandy Alderson that this team will compete for the post season in 2014 very disingenuous. – Joe D.