Shortly after the National League All-Stars beat their American League counterparts by a score of don’t care to couldn’t possibly care less, it was announced that a deal had been worked out between the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers involving closer Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod, as he used to be affectionately known, and $5 million were on their way to Milwaukee for two players to be named later, giving the Brewers a formidable high leverage relieving pair in Rodriguez and John Axford. And there was great some rejoicing in Wisconsin!
While Milwaukee’s balls to the wall, all in approach to the 2011 season is somewhat admirable, it’s also quite costly. The $5 million coming the Brewers’ way in the transaction won’t even cover Rodriguez’s salary for the rest of this season (approximately $5.75 million), let alone a potential $3.5 million buyout at the end of the season if K-Rod doesn’t finish 55 games, which would vest a $17.5 million option for 2012.
I’m assuming that we don’t need to go through the numbers to explain how Rodriguez is unlikely to be worth a $17.5 million investment next season. I’m also assuming that this assumption allows Axford to remain the closer in Milwaukee, moving Rodriguez into a set up role that won’t see him close many games.
Making the move even more curious for the Brewers is that their bullpen has been very effective this season, with the team ranking fifth in the National League in reliever FIP, which is probably the best number to look at considering it doesn’t take into account the defense surrounding Milwaukee’s pitchers. And if there’s any glaring hole that needs to be addressed on this team, it’s their defensive abilities, or to be more accurate, their defensive inabilities, something that Rodriguez’s 51.7% groundball rate so far this year might end up highlighting.
As for the New York Mets: bazinga! They Vernon’d a frightening contract and freed up cash for this season and next. The fact that they’re also getting two players in return, I’m guessing the quality of which will have something to do with the team’s performance or K-Rod’s in Milwaukee, is just more pudding on top of the trifle.
In addition to the Mets being winners, Scott Boras likely has a smile on his face, at least behind closed doors. He recently retained Rodriguez as a client, but for all of his claims that K-Rod is a closer only, it actually benefits him more if Rodriguez’s option doesn’t vest. The points from a vested option would go to the reliever’s former agent, but a new contract, which Rodriguez would be forced to seek if his option isn’t vested, would earn Boras money.
In fact, the only thing that didn’t go Boras’ way was Milwaukee not being among the ten teams that Rodriguez could refuse a trade to according to his current contract. These lists are notoriously used, not because the player doesn’t want to play for those particular teams, but because they’re the most willing to pay a premium to get the player to waive whatever clause is blocking the move.
It’s breakdown time:
- Fortified bullpen; and
- Every improvement counts in the tight NL Central division race.
- High groundball rate plus poor defense isn’t the best combination;
- At least $9.25 million added to budget; and
- And if Axford injury or ineffectiveness forces them to close out games with K-Rod, deal costs the team $18 million.
New York Mets
- Saves cash this season; and
- Frees up cash for next season.