Don’t believe Fernando Rodney’s hype.
Teams that want to pay for saves have a bevvy of options. My only issue with Rodney, who unlike those in this list was good last season and good for the past two seasons unlike half of the list.
There’s some merit to paying Rodney as opposed to these other guys because he’s been healthy, good and somewhat consistent most recently.
Rodney sported a ridiculous 0.60 ERA helped by a still dominant 2.13 FIP. In the last three seasons, including his last season with the Angels, his groundball rates have danced near the 60s.
The key to Rodney’s resurgence in 2012 had a lot to do with a really, really, really good defense, a lot of luck, and a career low 1.81 walkers per nine innings. That elite number was sandwiched by a seven plus walk average in Anaheim, and a shade under four in his second year in Tampa Bay.
Rodney’s age hardly matters when his thunderous fastball velocity sits at 96 mph. Making him throw strikes is a whole different game. Rodney’s one season in Tampa Bay was an outlier — Rodney’s landing foot was straightened out by the Rays coaches, and there were other bullshit we don’t heat about or can quantify, things like, he likes it there, his catcher was good, etc …
Mechanical fixes don’t yield consistent results — and Rodney was still good, but not as lucky.
Thing is he’ll get peddled as a consistent source of saves — shorthand these days for a really good reliever. But he’ll likely cost more than Grant Balfour. Rodney won’t sign for more than $7 million for three years, but the fact that he’ll get it doesn’t mean there aren’t others in the market who at a fraction or less get you the essentially the same results.
Rodney’s a fine appendage to a team that’s already locked up in other spots to make an honest postseason run, but the chances of him being the difference between the Mariners and the Royals making it or not isn’t foreboding.
The Rays of ‘12 will tell you it helps a great deal to have two wins from a relief pitcher while in a tight 162-stress run. In 2013 Rodney wasn’t bad, but had stretches where he could have been justifiably replaced.
Successful teams who’ve made the World Series the past four seasons haven’t paid market price for their closers. Converted starter Neftali Feliz was part of cheap prospects haul Mark Teixeira brought, and was used in the role because he was the best arm out of the ‘pen. Homegrown closers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo of the Giants. Bargain middle reliever Koji Uehara for the Red Sox. Converted catcher Jason Motte and homegrown fireballer Trevor Rosenthal. The Tigers were an anomaly with Jose Valverde, who got paid as a free agent and was comically successful in the moment.
Jonathan Papelbon’s experience with the Phillies put to rest the notion that closers are worth that much money. The Yankees are going with homegrown David Robertson as its first option. The White Sox had a young homegrown reliever, but traded Addison Reed before having to pay him. The Dodgers are paying closer market money for Brandon League, but are fine with it because Kenley Jansen is under rookie scale, his earliest arbitration year coming after the 2014 World Series.
Don’t get me wrong. Having an elite relief pitcher to put away nine innings is great. And there’s really no one formula to carry a bullpen through the years. It’s a modern marvel how the Angels kept the Troy Percival/Francisco Rodriguez train running, but then they also had MLB Setup Man of the Millenium Scott Shields, leaving them free to hit or miss with the Ben Webbers and Brendan Donnellys of the world.
Here’s a list of nine other sources of saves: