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.

 

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  • http://kennhoekstra.blogspot.com Kenn Hoekstra

    In order for me to claim this is an awesome move, Melvin would have to turn around and trade K-Rod for a major Shortstop upgrade! ;)

    Personally, I’m happy to have K-Rod on board. I consider him an upgrade over Braddock, McClendon, Estrada, Loe and Dillard as a late inning reliever.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    It sounds like the Brewers are giving up next to nothing for him; even got the Mets to cover part of his salary. If nothing else, it gives the team another late inning option. As for his attitude, the prospect of impending free agency should be enough to keep him in line, as there’s no way the Brewers will allow that option to kick in. If he wants to get paid, he’d be smart to behave in order not to scare off potential suitors after the season.

    • http://www.retaggr.com/Page/crichar3 Chris

      That’s probably not far off the mark, but I think fans need to set their expectations accordingly. Looking for an impact/difference maker in a declining set-up man is unrealistic.

  • BrewTownBoozer

    Personally, I feel that KRod punching another man is a non-story. OK, it happened to be his father in law. So what? If your father in law isn’t an a**hole, then you have no idea what it is like.

    I don’t know the details surrounding the incident but it happened last year and he has been fine since. I’m not saying it’s right or that he should have done it, but I have seen quite a few people judging over the last 30 hours. The guy saved 62 games two years ago. I’ll take him everyday and twice on Sunday.

    • http://www.retaggr.com/Page/crichar3 Chris

      Actually, he saved 62 games three years ago…and his combined saves the past two season were less than what he posted in 2008 alone. That combined with a fastball that is routinely around 92 (compared to the 98 it was when he was earning his K-Rod name) shows that this is a player on the decline; still good, but increasingly ordinary.

      The problem is that the perception of him being a late inning assassin was formed when the Angels were a force. But time has moved on, eroding the talent Frankie once had. He’s not an old, washed up guy. However, he is 29 and no longer the pitcher he was at 24 (when his WHIP was 1.1 and he was striking out 12 per nine).

      To reiterate, I’m not saying he can’t help the Brewers–he can. K-Rod is clearly an upgrade to the pen. But some expectations about the impact he will make seem unrealistic given the slow but clear slide his career is on. Here’s hoping he finds a little of ’06 during his 10 weeks with the Crew. But I think it’s not wise to expect him to be that guy.