Not a CC Reprise
Pardon my skepticism about the Brewers move to acquire Francisco Rodriguez. In the wake of the largely positive response to the deal from most fans and writers, my enthusiasm is tempered. As more and more details of the trade seep out, I am cheered to learn that this does not appear to be another desperate grasp for a reliever, a move Doug Melvin made in 2007 when he reached for Scott Linebrink. Milwaukee ended up getting 25 innings of slightly above average pitching (3.55 ERA/1.5 WHIP) in exchange for three minor league pitchers. While two of those guys have been hurt and not seen the majors, the third — Joe Thatcher — gave San Diego 126 good innings (3.27 ERA/1.255 WHIP) over the past four years before getting hurt. While early indications are that this isn’t going to be that kind of deal, I am not without concerns:
The fact is, K-Rod has not been that good this season, at least relative to the shutdown guy he was with the Angels. After an terrible month of June, he has a 3.16 ERA, which is fine, and he’s converted 88% of his saves, which is good. But a WHIP 1.4+ is not what you want from a back-end of the pen guy. Moreover, as Jim at Bernie’s Crew notes, K-Rod has been losing steam on his once-upon-a-time 98 MPH heater. At 29 I’d like not to think Frankie is not in full decline, but the statistical trends are not encouraging.
Of course, the future really shouldn’t matter because I can’t see K-Rod being in MKE beyond the end of this season. The only way that happens is if Rodriguez somehow finishes out 21 games, thus vesting his $17.5MM option for 2012. If that happens for reasons other than an injury to John Axford, I might finally join the “Fire Ron Roenicke” crowd. Simply put, that is one poison pill the Brewers simply cannot swallow.
So that puts K-Rod into the ever-popular role of Eighth Inning Guy, and that is another of my concerns. Already, Scott Boras, Frankie’s new agent, has said: “Do you want an unhappy setup man in your clubhouse?” (He could have added, “…particularly a guy who punched out his girlfriend’s father near there last year.”) On this score, Jon Heyman, writing for SI, offered this:
Rodriguez’s position now is that he wants to stay as a closer. “He’s a closer, he’s one of the game’s best closers,” Rodriguez’s new agent, Scott Boras, said before the trade to Milwaukee was consummated. “And he wants to remain a closer.” Brewers GM Doug Melvin made the trade before checking with K-Rod, but Boras and Melvin spoke about the subject shortly after the trade. Boras made the case that K-Rod should close, suggesting he wouldn’t do nearly as well setting up, while Melvin apparently made no commitment, suggesting only that things “will work out,” or words to that effect. This is something the Brewers may need to work on to make it work out. Because while K-Rod has behaved impeccably all year, he has a bit of a reputation, and a player close to him said, “You don’t want him unhappy.”
At least John Axford is tweeting tidings of good will about the transaction and, welcoming K-Rod with (seemingly) open arms. So I guess this could be worse.
On the plus side, Brewers fans can feel good about the commitment to winning displayed by the team’s ownership and management. Even if they don’t reach the post-season and this move is stamped as a failure, fans know that the Brewers truly have gone balls-out during Prince Fielder’s last year with the club. That should keep the turnstiles spinning for at least another season.
So the Brewers have added a good arm, although not one as good as it once was, to the back of their bullpen, shoring up one of the teams soft areas. It’s a deal that has reportedly given them enough cash to cut in half their exposure on the remainder of Rodriguez’s 2011 salary + $3.5MM buyout — that makes the deal affordable. And based on Doug Melvin’s comments at today’s presser, it doesn’t sound as if the two Players to be Named Later are going to thin an already lean farm system. So it’s not all bad.
To be clear, don’t mistake my jaundiced eye for disapproval: I’m not down on this trade as much as I am simply not excited about it; there are too many holes to make it anything like the CC Sabathia deal in 2008. Besides, just as “Charlie don’t surf,” Frankie don’t play short. If Milwaukee can find a upgrade there to go with the potential of an improved bullpen, I might be more enthusiastic.