The Mariners signed Fernando Rodney to a two-year, $14 million contract yesterday. That is a pretty good move for a team with playoff aspirations and a pressing need to improve if they wish to get there. This deal for Rodney seems like a fair deal for a 37-year old reliever, one with a pretty stellar record over the last few years.
Paying through the nose for relievers might be over but there is no harm in paying a fair price for a good reliever.
The Mariners, to their credit, already had a good reliever. Danny Farquhar came out of semi-obscurity to post very nice numbers for Seattle last season. He struck out more and walked fewer than Rodney in 2013, allowing fewer home runs in the process.
But if we add 2012 into our comparison between Farquhar and Rodney…we’re still comparing only one season from Farquhar. He didn’t pitch in the big leagues at all in 2012 and only made a handful of appearances in 2011, then a member of the Blue Jays (he made stops in the minor league systems of both Oakland and the Yankees before landing in Seattle and pitching well at triple-A Tacoma in 2013). While Farquhar languished in the PCL, Fernando Rodney posted one of the finest reliever seasons, by ERA, ever. 48 saves, 0.60 ERA, high ground ball rate, Fernando Rodney had it all working in 2012.
This is sort of the point of relievers, and why the price of a premium closer (85 saves over the last two years) has come down considerably over the years – there is always a Danny Farquhar lurking around the corner. Asking a pitcher to record three outs three times a week isn’t so difficult a job as to make it impossible to find reliable replacements under rocks or lurking in Indy ball or lurking inside the body of a wild setup man a la Fernando Rodney.
But sometimes those three outs mean the world. Getting those three outs with regularity can make the difference between missing the playoffs and squandering another year of your very expensive core’s prime and skating into the playoffs. Sometimes you want to know those three outs are safe rather than hoping their hope.
While this sounds insane to discuss in reference to Fernando Rodney of all people, compared to Danny Farquhar, Rodney is a sure thing. He is a known commodity with a long big league track record. The diminutive Mariner pitched less than 50 times at the ass end of a lost season for a fourth place team.
Which is to say – the Mariners desire to secure somebody with a higher floor makes quite a bit of sense. They still have a lot of high ceiling players in their bullpen like Farquhar, who can now rove around in high leverage limbo, getting outs when the situation demands rather than residing in the ninth inning ivory tower, and former closer turned failed starter Tom Wilhelmsen.
There is other work for Seattle to do but this is at least a position now resolved for Jack Z the Marinerds. They have other holes to fill (though Corey Hart says he’s all for DHing, which is a nice mystery solved) but they’re well on their way to finishing a respectable fourth in the division, pushing up on the contenders rather than sitting on the heads of the lowly Astros. Progress!
Important read of the day – RIP Ralph Kiner
I don’t know too much about Ralph Kiner the man. A lot of people, Mets fan in particular, seem to think he’s sort of the best. A key piece of their childhood as a staple of Mets TV broadcasts for a long, long time. Read our friend Ted Berg on why he’ll miss Ralph Kiner and you gain and understanding for the affection the man has among Mets fans of a certain vintage.
On the field, Ralph Kiner was a beast. He lead the league in home runs for each of his first seven years as a pro, leading the charge after WWII in a time of ample run scoring. He averaged 42 home runs a year from 1946 to 1952, posting a .281/.405/.571 line in the process. He was worth more than 40 Wins Above Replacement over that time.
Ralph Kiner was a star on the field and a star off the field for nearly 50 years. He is missed already.
Mark Trumbo and the Arizona Diamondbacks avoided arbitration yesterday by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.8 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
That is a nice figure for the slugger on his first trip through arbitration, especially given the bump his numbers could well receive after moving to the homer friendly desert outside Phoenix.
One criticism of the arbitration process has its crushes and they are no more obvious than when we look at a player like Trumbo. In November, I compared Mark Trumbo to Giancarlo Stanton, two players with identical service time and the same number of home runs and RBI.
That is where the differences end, of course, as Stanton is a fine defender in the outfield and also a much, much better or more complete hitter than his off-season workout partner.
At that time, the arbitration projections suggested they would get around the same in their first trip through the arb system – around $4.8MM. In the end, the Marlins and Stanton agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million while Trumbo settled on the $4.8 MM figure. MLBTR’s system nailed Trumbo’s salary but missed wildly on Stanton.
Which, I think we can all agree, is a good thing. Stanton is a better player and is being paid as such. Maybe there is room for growth in the antiquated system after all? If anything, this is just another piece of information suggesting players are evaluated in a much more realistic fashion now. Good news for good players and fans of rational thinking. A big day, really.