Two winters ago, Francisco Rodriguez was the most attractive free agent closer around, but if the Mets put him on the trade market this winter, it's hard to imagine that interest would be anything but tepid. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Mets front office, most attempts to predict the team's offseason moves are speculative, but it's safe to say that Rodriguez, now on the disqualified list, may end up on the trade market this winter.
Last month, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested that Rodriguez is nearly untradeable. A post-game outburst in August led to an arrest – not the sort of behavior teams look for from their players. Worse still, Rodriguez injured a ligament in his thumb and required surgery. He should be ready for the 2011 season, but teams can't be completely certain about the reliever's health.
Rodriguez isn't cheap, either. He makes $11.5MM in 2011 and will earn a $3.5MM buyout for the 2012 portion of his contract, even if his option doesn't vest. In other words, any team acquiring Rodriguez will face a $15MM commitment for a pitcher whose fastball has slowed down 4 mph over the course of the last four seasons.
But Rodriguez can pitch, despite the dropoff in velocity. He had 25 saves and a 2.20 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 before his injury. He's just 28, but he has been one of the most dominant late-inning relievers in baseball for most of the last decade and has already made 21 postseason appearances. K-Rod has lived up to his nickname, striking out far more than a batter per inning over the course of his career.
Teams will presumably shy away from him because of his reputation as a hot-head, but supposed problem players like Manny Ramirez (2008), Vicente Padilla (2009) and Yunel Escobar (2010) have rewarded the teams that looked past their reputations. Rodriguez could do the same, but a team would have to trade for him first. At this point, it looks like the Mets would have to take on significant salary to make a deal, and even if the front office were willing to do so, the odds would be stacked against a trade.