NEW YORK -- The Mets shored up their bullpen with another veteran closer on Wednesday, signing three-time All-Star Jose Valverde to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Valverde will battle fellow veteran Kyle Farnsworth and a host of young arms for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
Owner of 286 career saves over 11 seasons with the D-backs, Astros and Tigers, Valverde gives the Mets additional closer support should Bobby Parnell struggle to recover from the neck surgery he underwent in September. Valverde will earn a reported $1 million if he makes the team.
Valverde, 35, threw only 19 1/3 innings in the big leagues last season, spending a chunk of the summer pitching for Triple-A Toledo after the Tigers designated him for assignment. Known for his split-fingered fastball, Valverde saved 226 games with a 2.92 ERA from 2007-12, and owns a career 3.19 ERA. Tied for 27th on baseball's all-time saves list, he is perhaps best known for going 49-for-49 in save opportunities during the 2011 regular season.
"I will always have great memories of him," former Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Valverde's release last year. "He did a terrific job for us in this organization. I don't know what his plans are, but we certainly wish him the best. He was a terrific closer and a terrific teammate."
The Mets spent much of this offseason searching for veteran insurance in case Parnell is not ready for Opening Day. But the Mets' incumbent closer reported early to Spring Training last month, insisting he is right on schedule in his recovery.
If so, Valverde and Farnsworth could both slot in front of Parnell in the Opening Day bullpen. Other strong bets to make the team include right-handers Vic Black and Jeurys Familia, as well as lefty Scott Rice. Rookies Jeff Walters and Jack Leathersich will also receive long looks in camp, as will Josh Edgin, Ryan Reid and Carlos Torres, who are already on the 40-man roster.