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Fernando Rodney Rumors
The Nationals have interest in free agent reliever Grant Balfour, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Nats already have three relievers with closing experience in Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, but the addition of Balfour could make sense for a variety of reasons, Rosenthal writes.
According to sources, GM Mike Rizzo & Co. would like to trade Storen, who will earn $3.45MM in 2014. Meanwhile, Washington almost certainly doesn't want Soriano to pitch enough games to trigger his $14MM option for 2015 and they'd probably like to keep Clippard as a setup man.
The Nationals saved about $3.5MM by signing shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to back-loaded, two-year extensions and major league sources say their aim was to create financial flexibility. They want to add another bat off the bench, but they also would like to add Balfour. They could also parlay those savings into settling their arb cases with Clippard and Doug Fister, but, of course, they'd rather not have to.
Balfour, of course, had agreed to a two-year, $15MM contract with the Beltway's other team before the O's called it off due to concerns about his knee and wrist. Meanwhile, Balfour has been adamant that he is completely healthy.
While the Nationals like Balfour, they don't have interest in Fernando Rodney, the other top closer on the market, sources say.
Though the Orioles were clearly interested in signing a closer at one point this offseason — they did reach a two-year agreement with Grant Balfour that ultimately fell through — the team will likely go with an in-house candidate in the ninth inning this season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. According to Connolly, the Orioles "have seemingly walked away" from the idea of adding a high-priced ninth-inning option like Balfour or Fernando Rodney. The team is now focused on starting pitching and adding one more backup catcher to the mix, despite already having four catchers on its 40-man roster.
Connolly's piece makes Bronson Arroyo out to be the likeliest candidate from the group of him, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The reasons, not surprisingly, are Arroyo's cheaper price tag and the fact that he is not tied to draft pick compensation. Connolly notes that if the demands of Garza, Jimenez or Santana drop below four years following resolution of the Masahiro Tanaka situation, the O's could be a factor there as well.
Baltimore already has Johnny Monell, Steve Clevenger and Michael Ohlman on its 40-man roster, but executive vice president Dan Duquette would still like a more experienced option to consider for Matt Wieters' backup. He lists John Buck, Miguel Olivo and Michael McKenry as potential options on the free agent market, noting that McKenry is the most intriguing of the bunch.
MONDAY: The Orioles are one of four teams showing "significant" interest in Rodney, Connolly reports. Baltimore's decision not to sign Balfour has "unquestionably" intensified the Rodney market, Connolly's source added. Baltimore likes Rodney's recent AL East success, but there's a sense that he could require a larger deal than the two-year, $15MM agreement with Balfour that crumbled, and that could be beyond the Orioles' comfort limit, says Connolly.
The team has also checked in on Francisco Rodriguez, Connolly adds. One source told him that the O's have reached out to K-Rod very recently, but the sense is that it was more due diligence than genuine interest. Rodriguez wasn't happy with his role in Baltimore's bullpen in 2013, as he rarely worked high leverage innings after being acquired from the Brewers for infield prospect Nick Delmonico.
FRIDAY: With the Grant Balfour decision in limbo, the Orioles are turning their attention to Fernando Rodney, an industry source tells Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). The O's had discussions with and about Rodney earlier this winter but negotiations didn't progress (link).
Rodney is reportedly seeking as much as $10MM per year, which would make him a considerably more expensive option than Balfour. However, with many closing vacancies already filled, Rodney's leverage may not be as great as it was early in the offseason. By that same token, his agents at the MVP Sports group can make the case that Rodney is the best closer left on the market to try to get the Orioles to pay a premium.
Rodney is coming off a strong season in which he pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings for the Rays. Though he racked up another 37 saves, Rodney's history of command issues resurfaced in 2013 after it looked like he may have overcome that problem a year prior. In his free agent profile of Rodney back on Nov. 1, our own Steve Adams predicted a two-year, $18MM contract for the soon-to-be 37-year-old.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
In an article with the latest on the David Price situation, the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin dismisses reports that the Rays are motivated to move the Cy Young winner by Dec. 31 to avoid having to pay $4MM in deferred money. "The payment isn't due until Oct. 1, and it is the Rays' obligation, so really a nonfactor, as including it would be the same as asking for cash in a deal and subject to MLB approval," Topkin writes. While the Mariners are often named as a likely suitor for Price, they "seem to talk more about what prospects they don't want to trade." Here's more from the AL and NL East:
- The Orioles could fill their closer and second base vacancies from within, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Fans have been frustrated by the club's quiet offseason thus far, but the O's seem likely to pluck their next second baseman from what they already have, and they won't spend lavishly on another ninth-inning option if Fernando Rodney doesn't drop his price.
- The Orioles' nullified deal with Grant Balfour could conceivably have ramifications for Baltimore, Kubatko writes. It's possible that the reliever could decide to file a grievance with the Players' Association or that some free agents down the road may be leery of agreeing to terms with the club.
- The Yankees could be back in on Balfour, along with the Tigers, Rockies, and Angels, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Earlier this week we heard that the Rays are also in the mix.
- The Braves won't force the issue in their search of bullpen depth, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
- The Marlins, meanwhile, are after a veteran presence to add to their pen, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Here's the latest on the Orioles' pursuit of a closer courtesy of a series of tweets from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The Orioles are upset at the idea that they "backed out" of their agreement with Grant Balfour, as they don't have another closer in waiting. They heeded their doctors' recommendations after Balfour's physical, and now would not be comfortable signing him for more than a year plus an option.
With a deal with Balfour now unlikely, the Orioles could pursue Fernando Rodney, or just give their closer's job to one of their current pitchers. Free agent Chris Perez does not seem to be a possibility. The Orioles have discussed the possibility of a Jonathan Papelbon trade with the Phillies, but Papelbon's contract is an obstacle. The Phillies owe Papelbon $13MM in both 2014 and 2015, and he also has a $13MM vesting option for 2016.
Closer Fernando Rodney is said to be seeking a deal worth $10MM per season over two years or possibly three, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Mariners are among the clubs with interest but they can't be enthused about that price, Heyman notes.
Rodney is coming off a strong season in which he pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings for the Rays. However, he has a history of command issues and they resurfaced in 2013. ERA estimators FIP (2.46), xFIP (2.88) and SIERA (2.69) were all kind to Rodney in 2013. The veteran ranks seventh among all qualified relief pitchers from 2012-13 in fWAR at 3.6.
Back in November, our own Steve Adams predicted that Rodney was in line for a two-year, $18MM deal.
The Mariners are interested in Fernando Rodney, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). As Morosi notes, Rodney is quite familiar with new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon from the duo's days together with the Tigers. They have a good relationship, according to Morosi.
A closer is known to be on the Mariners' wish list after struggling at the position in 2013. Tom Wilhelmsen lost the job midway through the season, though Danny Farquhar emerged as a solid option for the M's down the stretch.
Rodney is coming off a strong season in which he pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings for the Rays. Though he racked up another 37 saves, Rodney's history of command issues resurfaced in 2013 after it looked like he may have overcome that problem a year prior.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com hears the Mets aren't considering a reunion with Scott Kazmir. Earlier today, we heard that the Indians don't expect to hang on to the left-hander as he's likely to command a multi-year pact and they're not willing to go beyond one. Here's more from around baseball..
- Royals manager Ned Yost told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter links) that his priorities are starting pitching and second base. Yost also indicated that Carlos Beltran, Brandon Phillips, and Ervin Santana have popped up in discussions.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti is scheduled to talk to agent Dan Lozano about two of his clients, closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland is looking into out-of-house closing options after parting ways with Chris Perez.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he's looking to add "400 innings" to the rotation this winter, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has scouted Masahiro Tanaka extensively and hopes to be in the mix for him, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- If Carlos Ruiz really has a two-year, $20MM offer on the table, then he probably shouldn't let it sit for too long, opines MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
- Nationals assistant GM and VP of player personnel Roy Clark has the club to take a job with the Dodgers, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
When Fernando Rodney signed a one-year, $2MM contract with the Rays that contained a club option for the 2013 season, many were surprised to see him receive a Major League deal. Rodney rebounded from an injury-plagued 2011 season that saw him walk more batters than he struck out to turn in the most dominant season (in terms of ERA) in Major League history in 2012. He'll hit the free agent market as one of the top relief arms available coming off a pair of big seasons in Tampa.
Only one free agent reliever — Jesse Crain — posted a higher K/9 than Rodney's 11.1. Rodney whiffed 28.2 percent of the hitters he faced in 2013, a mark that can only be topped by Crain and Joe Nathan. In terms of pure velocity, there's no free agent pitcher among starters or relievers with at least 10 innings pitched that can top Rodney's 96.5 mph average fastball. As such, it's no surprise to see him tied for the second-best swinging-strike rate at 12.5 percent. In other words, Rodney flat out overpowers hitters.
The 2013 campaign marked the fifth consecutive season in which Rodney has posted a ground-ball rate north of 50 percent. His 50.6 clip ranks sixth among right-handed peers on the free agent market.
As noted in the intro, Rodney's 0.60 ERA in 2012 was the lowest ERA in baseball history for a relief pitcher. Predictably, there was some regression in 2013, resulting in a 3.38 ERA. ERA estimators FIP (2.46), xFIP (2.88) and SIERA (2.69) all still love Rodney, though. As a result, Rodney ranks seventh among all qualified relief pitchers from 2012-13 in fWAR at 3.6.
Rodney remains a fastball/change-up pitcher, but the combination has become more effective with age, as he's continually added to his velocity over the past several seasons. While many pitchers see their velocity decline as they get older, there are no such concerns with Rodney.
Dominant as he was, Rodney won't be receiving a qualifying offer from the cost-conscious Rays, so he won't require a draft pick to sign.
While Rodney's strikeout numbers are typically sky-high, so too are his walk totals. Rodney shocked everyone by averaging just 1.8 walks per nine innings in 2012 (5.3 BB%), but his command woes returned in 2013. Rodney has averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings in his career (11.4 BB%), and he averaged 4.9 per nine innings in 2013 (12.4 BB%). This past season was a make-or-break year for his walk rate; had he kept it down, teams may have believed that he'd corrected the issue. As it turns out, 2012's walk rate just looks fluky.
Rodney will turn 37 next March, so while he's increasing his velocity and delivering the best innings of his career, one has to wonder when he will start to show his age. There's plenty of precedent for relievers enjoying success in their late 30s and even into their early 40s, but Rodney lacks the track record of a Joe Nathan or a Mariano Rivera — two recent examples of such success.
That lack of a track record is what makes evaluating Rodney truly difficult. Heading into 2012, Rodney had a 4.42 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9 over his previous 266 2/3 innings in the Majors. He'd never been able to hold down a closer's gig for more than a year at a time, as evidenced by the fact that he's saved almost as many games in two seasons with the Rays (85) as he had in nine previous seasons combined (87). Which guy is Fernando Rodney? The erratic, often hittable setup man or the dominant relief ace that held opponents to a .186/.266/.259 batting line from 2012-13? That's the question that scouts and GMs will have to answer this winter.
Rodney and his wife, Helen, have four children ranging from eight months old to 12 years old, according to the Rays media guide. As noted by MLB.com's Bill Chastain, Rodney is popular among his teammates, with Joel Peralta among the most vocal about his desire for Rodney to return. Chastain also notes that Jose Lobaton would like to see the closer return as well.
Peralta feels that Rodney would take a discount to remain with the Rays. Peralta says that he and Rodney are like brothers, and that Rodney is beloved in the clubhouse. That thinking directly contradicts a recent report by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Times, who wrote last weekend that Rodney will explore the market.
Rodney's agent, Dan Lozano of the MVP Sports Group, will likely attempt to position his client as the next-best closer on the market after Nathan. They'll have a compelling point, as Rodney's 85 saves in 2012-13 are the most of any free agent, and his 1.91 ERA in that time is topped only by Crain and his balky shoulder. Unfortunately, it looks to be a buyers' market for relief pitchers, as Rodney will be joined by Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Edward Mujica, Jose Veras and the recently released Chris Perez — each of whom saved at least 21 games this season. And that doesn't even count Brian Wilson, he of 171 career saves, who will be a free agent after re-establishing his value and announcing his health in a late-season cameo with the Dodgers.
Rodney has transformed himself from a 2011-12 afterthought to a Top 50 free agent for the 2013-14 offseason. He's a candidate to secure a multiyear contract, even though competition among closer types will be fierce. As is the case with all relievers on this market, it will behoove Rodney to sign early in the offseason while his options are still plentiful.
I'm comfortable projecting the same two-year, $18MM contract for Rodney that I projected for Balfour earlier in the month. Ultimately, our predictions are going to be off on some of these relievers, as there are just too many closer types competing for a limited amount of jobs. Some will be left standing in January and be forced to settle for one-year deals or eighth-inning roles that won't pay as well. However, with no way of knowing which relievers will come off the board first, I'm sticking to the formula of predicting the maximum dollars they can earn if they sign early in free agency.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
November will bring the eight-year anniversaries of the Rays' hirings of executive vice president Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Times. With Jim Leyland's retirement, Friedman and Maddon are now the longest-tenured GM/manager duo in Major League Baseball. Topkin quotes Friedman: "Joe and I have a tremendous working relationship that has only strengthened over time. I think that the continuity throughout our organization provides at least a little of a competitive advantage." Here's more on the Rays and the rest of the AL East…
- Within that same article, Topkin reports that there aren't likely to be any pre-emptive deals with impending free agents for the Rays. He lists James Loney and Fernando Rodney as two such free agents who would like to explore the free agent market. That goes against what teammate Joel Peralta said about Rodney a few weeks back; Peralta voiced his certainty that Rodney would take a discount to return to the Rays.
- Nolan Reimold hopes to return to the Orioles in 2014, though he realizes that he's not a lock to be tendered a contract, the 30-year-old tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Reimold missed the majority of the season once again but says he's significantly further along in his rehab from neck surgery than he was in his injury rehab at this time last season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $1.2MM salary for Reimold if the O's do indeed tender him.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com wonders how much of an impact Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35MM extension will have on the pitching market, specifically impending Orioles free agent Scott Feldman.