As I alluded to at the end of my post about Octavio Dotel, the Mets have a decision looming about JJ Putz and his $8.9 million option.
At one time, those numbers did not seem so ridiculous for a set-up man of his caliber. In 2006 and 2007 combined, Putz earned his team over $22 million as their closer. He racked up 76 saves against only nine blown saves in those two years. He pitched over 70 innings both years and had an era of 1.86. His WHIP was well under one. He looked like a dominant lefty closer.
Then came 2008 and 2009, when he racked up only 75 innings combined, had an ERA over four, a WHIP over 1.5, and only 15 saves against 10 blown saves. He was hurt both years, and at times blamed the coaching staffs on both of his teams.
The decline was precipitous and obvious, and if you look at his strikeout rates, it really seems that his peak has come and gone. When he first came up, Putz struck out around seven batters a game, which was right in line with his minor league totals. Then in 2007, those totals jumped to double digits. He paired this jump with a corresponding halving of his walk rate, and suddenly he was a relief ace.
Even in 2008, before his injury that year, he was still striking out over 10 batters a game. But his walk rate returned to its customary spot in the threes, and something was not right. He went down with rib and shoulder injuries and accrued only 45+ innings that year.
This year, though, Putz came out firing mothballs. His strikeout rate plummeted to under six a game and his walk rate rose to over five. He lost a mile and half of MPH off of his fastball, and that pitch, which had once been among the best in the game, was suddenly sub-par. Batters stopped reaching, they started centering the ball, and Putz got into trouble because he couldn’t rely on the fastball any more. Sure, a big portion of it has been his injuries, but those injuries are starting to pile up.
And now Putz has been worth a mere $3 million over the past two years of his contract.
It stands to reason that the team would rather pay him $1 million to not play for them, call it a writeoff, and go hunting for a more stable reliever in the offseason. Heck, it could even be Putz himself, but not at nine million dollars. No way.