Kill Your Darlings: Francisco Rodriguez as Trade Bait


Here we are again, Milwaukee Brewers fans. For those of you yet unfamiliar with what we are talking about in this segment, read up on our first installment talking about Yovani Gallardo.

As we continue to explore the Milwaukee Brewers’ dip into the trading pool in 2013, its easy to see that no one on this roster is safe.  Well, at least no one named Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, or Ryan Braun. The problem then becomes deciphering who has real value to teams in need. When you look at that term ‘value’ and the teams that are likely buyers, one name pops up pretty quickly.

That name belongs to Milwaukee Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

Francisco Rodriguez has been thrown into a number of trade discussions. Trust me when I tell you that this is a good thing. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The Situation: Francisco Rodriguez started the 12th season of his career in the Minor Leagues, after a little bit of visa trouble and a lot of bad games in 2012. Last season there were few fans — Brewers or otherwise — who saw K-Rod as continuing his career here in Milwaukee. There were fewer still who would publicly endorse the Venezuelan closer to be a part of their roster.

But Milwaukee, as it is wont to do, gave the 31 year-old another chance to make a first impression. Rodriguez did not disappoint in his Minor League audition, and was sent up to the club on a one year deal.

While we were all right to worry — in 2012, Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA and gave up 8 home runs in 72 innings and was objectively subpar by nearly every measure — but he became a stalwart member of one of the NL’s better performing bullpens in 2013. Frankie has given up only one earned run in 15 and 1/3 innings on a scant 8 hits. He’s fanned 16 batters and finally — finally — reached 300 saves for his career.

In one sense, it’s the comeback story of the year. Here was a guy cast aside by the Milwaukee Brewers following a tumultuous year both on and off the field, ignored by every club in baseball and staring down the barrel of early retirement at 31. And in just a few short months, he has revitalized his career. What caused the change?

Why He Could Move: What caused the change is the writing on the wall. Francisco knows the score here, as do the Milwaukee Brewers. Rodriguez is still effective as a closer and a reliever, but everyone knows that his chance of staying viable in that role can only last for a few more seasons. and no one knows better than K-Rod himself that the Brewers are not in the market to retain a big-name, high salaried player at that position. The team has made it clear time and time again that Jim Henderson and John Axford are the men for that job (as silly as it is that we accept that logic) and the team is unwilling, largely, to move away from that mindset.

So what do you do with a closer who’s not allowed to close every opportunity?

You find a place that he’s welcome and hope he performs well for you in the

K-Rod may be happy in Milwaukee for the moment, but he’d serve just as well on a competing team in the second half of 2013 (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

meantime. And nobody’s stock is rising quite as high as quickly as K-Rod’s. It’s the perfect position for the team to pick up some prospects or maybe a few relievers for a team desperate to gain traction in the back end of games (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles Dodgers).

Many teams would likely be renting Rodriguez for the season, so the list is probably not as long as we would like to believe. But in terms of this season alone, the deal would not come with as hefty a price tag as it would have in previous years. Rodriguez doesn’t have a real place on this Brewers team, and will forever walk a tightrope with the Milwaukee fans.

But with a team and a chance to compete, who knows what could happen. Even better still, who knows what we would get in return for a once-premiere closer who looks as close as ever to top form.