Mets get Putz as set-up man
LAS VEGAS -- The New York Mets overhauled their much-maligned bullpen with two big moves Wednesday, obtaining J.J. Putz from Seattle as part of a three-team, 12-player trade that gives them a set-up man for new closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Hours after completing a $37 million, three-year contract with Rodriguez, New York dealt seven players -- six to the Mariners and one to Cleveland -- to get three back in a huge swap at the winter meetings.
"All I kept on hearing in the streets of New York when you go get bagels in the morning was, 'Omar, please address the bullpen,'" Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Well, to all you Mets fans, we've addressed the bullpen."
New York shipped reliever Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, lefty Jason Vargas and three minor leaguers to the Mariners for Putz, center fielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green in the first trade by new Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik.
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"It helps all of us," Zduriencik said.
An All-Star in 2007 when he saved 40 games, Putz was 6-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 15 saves in 23 chances last season when he missed long stretches with rib cage and elbow injuries. But Minaya wasn't concerned about the pitcher's health, saying New York had a scout at his final game of the season and Putz maintained a 98-99 mph velocity.
"It's about winning championships," Minaya said. "I've always said it's about the team and putting teams first and going for that ring. To win, you've got to sacrifice yourself."
Before the trade was announced, Putz's agent, Craig Landis, said the right-hander wanted to remain a closer. But Minaya said he spoke with Putz, who was excited about his new team and role.
"It's a new challenge and I'm excited about it," Putz said, according to the Seattle Times. "I'm going to a new team that's going to be very competitive. Frankie's a great closer and with Sean Green going as well, we should have a great bullpen."
The Indians had been interested in acquiring Putz before nearing a two-year contract with free-agent closer Kerry Wood, who needed to take a physical before that deal could be finalized.
Once the Indians closed in on Wood, the three-team trade came together quickly.
"We dealt from an area of depth," Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro said, referring to his club's young outfielders.
The key to the deal for Seattle was Gutierrez, who batted .248 with eight homers and 41 RBIs. A skilled defender, he played right field in Cleveland because the Indians have All-Star Grady Sizemore in center.
"That's one of the things that we wanted to do is make our defense stronger," Zduriencik said. "I think it's helped us shore up our prospect status."
Zduriencik said it was uncertain who would close for Seattle and too early to determine what role Heilman would have.
Heilman was inconsistent in his set-up role with the Mets and would prefer to be a starter. He was 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA last season and was among the bullpen culprits as New York folded in September for the second straight season.
When Billy Wagner got hurt, the rest of the relievers struggled as they tried to adjust to different roles.
"We've proven that sometimes, unfortunately, one closer is not enough," Minaya said.
Smith, a submarine-style right-hander who gets plenty of grounders, was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA.
"Joe Smith clearly goes right in the major league bullpen as a guy we've had long-term interest in," Shapiro said. "A different look, complements our 'pen well. We think he can be an important part of the back end of a 'pen."
The three minor leaguers New York sent to Seattle were first baseman Mike Carp, right-hander Maikel Cleto and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.
Putz will earn $5.3 million next season, and the Mets inherit an $8.9 million option for 2010 with a $1 million buyout. New York had 29 blown saves in 72 chances this year, and its 4.25 bullpen ERA ranked 13th in the NL.
"To get one closer like Frankie would have been a good winter. I think to get two guys like this is a great winter," Minaya said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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