Fuentes one closer option for Mets

Fuentes one closer option for Mets

NEW YORK -- Suppose the Mets don't win the Francisco Rodriguez sweepstakes, and have to settle for someone else. Suppose K-Rod isn't the answer at the back of their bullpen. Suppose they're simply not willing to shell out the cash. What then?

One possible answer became clear during this week's General Managers Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., where the agent for Brian Fuentes revealed that he has already been in talks with Mets' brass about the free-agent closer. Agent Rick Thurman told reporters late Monday that he planned to speak face-to-face with Mets general manager Omar Minaya at some point during the meetings.

"I think New York would be a great place for him," Thurman said on Monday evening.

Fuentes, 33, produced 30 saves with a 2.73 ERA in 67 appearances for the Rockies this season, solidifying his place as one of the top closers in baseball. The Mets originally toyed with the idea of acquiring him as a left-handed setup man to closer Billy Wagner prior to this summer's non-waiver Trade Deadline, even before suffering the worst of their bullpen woes. And now that Wagner is out until at least September following surgery on his left elbow, the Mets need someone to fill their vacant closer's role.

Rodriguez, who set a Major League record with 62 saves this past season at the age of 26, is a premier option. But Fuentes could provide similar production at a lower cost, and Thurman is marketing his client as such: a cheaper but equally effective choice.

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"His numbers compared to K-Rod are very similar in some ways," Thurman said. "I would say he's definitely a better value. I don't know where K-Rod's going to end up or Brian's going to end up."

And that's the catch. More than a few teams -- the Indians, Angels, Tigers and Rays chief among them -- are interested in acquiring Fuentes, who would likely sign for less money and fewer years than Rodriguez. But with the Mets focusing most of their available capital on pitching, they have already become one of the leading candidates.

The Mets ranked 23rd in the Majors this year with a 4.25 bullpen ERA, and third in the league with 29 blown saves. Wagner was a culprit, as was every pitcher who attempted to replace him late in the season. Fuentes, by comparison, has blown a total of 24 saves over his eight-year career.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.