The Milwaukee Brewers have had a relatively quiet offseason, making only a couple of major league moves after ending the 2014 season in third place at 82-80. One position that the Brewers’ have been looking to shore up all winter has been their relief corps; the Brewers waved good-bye to several key contributors from last season, including letting incumbent closer Francisco Rodriguez test the free agent market. As winter dragged on, K-Rod’s market never really seemed to develop much, and the Brewers were linked to him throughout the offseason. After the rumored Jonathan Papelbon deal fell through, it’s been reported that Brewer’s owner Mark Attanasio has been negotiating with Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, for a return season to Milwaukee.
Earlier this morning, a cryptic tweet came out from Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
The Brewers are Marlins were reported to be the primary suitors for Rodriguez, though he’s also been linked to the Blue Jays in the offseason. With the Marlins out of the picture and Jon Heyman reporting that the Blue Jays are not the unidentified team, the strong belief was that the Brewers would be bringing Rodriguez back for a fifth season. Indeed, Heyman later broke the news regarding Rodriguez landing with Milwaukee:
The deal is reportedly for 2 years and worth $13 mil, with Rodriguez earning $3.5 mil this year, $5.5 mil next season, and have $4 mil in deferred money. There is a $6 mil team option, as well. Adam McCalvy reported that K-Rod had a multi-year offer with the Marlins as well, but that he preferred to return to Milwaukee, a city that he like a lot and wants to be in. With the signing, the Brewers will have to clear a spot on the 40 man roster.
Rodriguez first came the the Brewers in a midseason trade with the New York Mets during the 2011 playoff run, and has signed one year deals to stay with the team in each subsequent offseason. He was traded in July of 2013 to the Orioles, but returned around this same time last season and usurped the closer’s role by Opening Day. Rodriguez has been relatively successful during his parts of four seasons with the Brewers, posting a 3.11 ERA in 193.2 innings, covering 209 appearances. He struck out 9.5 batters per nine verse only a 3.2 BB/9 mark with Milwaukee, and has saved 57 games in a Brewers uniform. He was an All-Star in 2014.
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Rodriguez posted 44 saves for the Brewers last season, leading the league with 66 games finished. His 3.04 ERA in 68 innings pitched was 25% better than league average, however Rodriguez wasn’t quite as good as his baseball card numbers say he was last season. His 4.50 FIP was nearly a run and a half higher than his ERA, and he gave up an absurd 1.9 HR/9 and a HR/FB ratio over 23%. Given Rodriguez’s age (33) and mileage on his arm (799 appearances over 13 MLB seasons), a decline from K-Rod seems imminent.
Still, the Brewers have a fascination with “closing experience,” and you won’t find many pitchers with more than K-Rod’s 348 career saves. He will likely be first in line to resume his role as closer, bumping Jonathan Broxton back to a setup role. To his credit, Broxton didn’t seem too upset about losing the closer’s role before he even really had it. “As long as we win, I don’t care,” Broxton told Adam McCalvy.
Rodriguez and the Brewers obviously have a strong relationship, and his playoff experience should be valuable in a young clubhouse. I would have preferred to stay with a one year deal for Rodriguez if we were to bring him back at all, and $13 mil plus a potential option seems like overkill to me, though $6.5 mil AAV doesn’t get you as much as it used to. The team seems like they might be tight on payroll, and with a team like the Blue Jays suddenly looking for an outfielder, it stands to reason that $6 mil backup Gerardo Parra could be on the block. The Brewers only have about $55 mil on the books for next season with the K-Rod signing, so this deal shouldn’t hamstring the team in 2016.
Francisco Rodriguez is a familiar face in Milwaukee, appearing for the Brewers in each season since 2011. He’s been an All-Star, he’s been a goat, he’s been a setup man, he’s been a closer, he’s been traded for, he’s been traded away, but most of all, he’s been consistently healthy. Though he is likely due for a regression in 2015 (and is by some accounts a terrible person), the Brewers bullpen is still better THIS YEAR than it would be without him. While how good a 33 year old Rodriguez can be in another year or two remains to be seen, this move does a lot to shore up the bullpen for 2015 and should help the Brewers in their quest for the playoffs.