Francisco Rodriguez Rumors

Francisco Rodriguez Seeking $10MM In 2015

Though multiple teams have shown interest in Francisco Rodriguez this offseason, he remains unsigned, with previous reports indicating that he and agent Scott Boras are holding out for a two-year deal. It appears, however, that K-Rod is willing to take a one-year pact, but at a premium price, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that he’s seeking a $10MM contract heading into the 2015 season.

News that Kenley Jansen underwent surgery that would sideline him for eight to 12 weeks spawned immediate speculation that K-Rod (or fellow Boras client Rafael Soriano) could land in Los Angeles. Indications since the announcement of Jansen’s foot surgery, though, are that the Dodgers won’t make a reactionary splash. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that K-Rod would only be a consideration for the Dodgers on their own terms, and a $10MM commitment hardly seems likely to match that description.

While the notion of Rodriguez seeking a one-year, $10MM contract back in October or November wouldn’t have seemed completely far-fetched — we at MLBTR predicted he’d find a two-year, $14MM deal — it seems difficult to imagine at this juncture. Most teams have spent their offseason budget and have little financial wiggle room. The best chance of Rodriguez finding such a deal would be in the event that another closer lost its closer for a more significant amount of time than the Dodgers currently stand to be without Jansen.

Rodriguez’s reported asking price figures to elicit a collective eye roll from many fans, but it should at least be noted that he did enjoy a very strong bottom-line results in Milwaukee last year. The 33-year-old recorded 44 saves with a 3.04 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in 68 innings. Many have been quick to criticize his season because he rated below replacement level per Fangraphs’ version of WAR, but that valuation is based on his 4.50 FIP. Baseball-Reference valued Rodriguez at 1.5 wins, and RA9-WAR agreed, valuing him at 1.3 wins.  Other ERA estimators such as xFIP (2.91) and SIERA (2.58) feel that Rodriguez was as effective, if not more so than his ERA indicated in 2014. Rodriguez did post the best BB/9 rate of his career last season, and his swinging-strike rate was his best since 2011.

Those positive factors notwithstanding, $10MM is an aggressive goal for a 33-year-old reliever in mid-February, although Boras has pulled off larger feats in previous offseasons. To this point, the Brewers, Blue Jays and now Dodgers have been the teams most often linked to Rodriguez, but barring a drop in asking price, his eventual landing spot may be with a team that doesn’t even have a clear need for a closer at the moment.


Latest On The Dodgers’ Bullpen

The Dodgers will be without Kenley Jansen through at least mid-April and possibly mid-May after their elite closer underwent surgery on his left foot this morning, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has indicated to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that the front office’s initial plan is to evaluate its in-house alternatives at closer (Twitter link).

Though the team may not ultimately take a reactionary approach, the Dodgers will indeed check in on free agents Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Sorianotweets Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. However, Shaikin adds that he feels it’s more likely the Dodgers will add a middle relief option than a closer, considering Jansen figures to miss a maximum of six weeks (barring setbacks) and is suffering from an injury that is not related to his arm.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports seems to agree with the thought that a reactionary move is unlikely, tweeting that it’d be a “shock” to see the team make a desperation move. Signing K-Rod would only happen if Rodriguez were to sign at the Dodgers’ price, Rosenthal notes, and that seems rather unlikely, considering the fact that Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras have reportedly been holding out for a two-year deal.

The Dodgers’ most experienced options to replace Jansen for the early portion of the season include J.P. Howell, Brandon League and Joel Peralta. Of that trio, only League comes with significant closing experience, though there’s no guarantee that that will play a significant factor in the decision. Paco Rodriguez, Juan Nicasio, Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez represent 40-man options, while non-roster invitees David Aardsma and Sergio Santos have closing experience as well.


Pitching Notes: Gee, K-Rod, Soriano, Marlins, Uehara, Richards

Right-hander Dillon Gee is likely the odd man out and headed to the Mets‘ bullpen this season, and ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was among the reporters to speak with him today regarding the move (video link). Gee says he is ready to contribute in whatever role he is asked, even though he obviously prefers to stay in the rotation. Though he did not ever speak with anyone in the front office, he relayed that his agent did, and was seemingly left with the impression that a trade was never quite as likely as was believed in some quarters.

Let’s have a look at a few segments of the pitching market where action still seems open:

  • It would still be unwise to bet against two other well-known closers — Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano — landing substantial contracts, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Notably, both free agents are represented by Scott Boras, who Rosenthal says not to bet against. As Rosenthal rightly points out, it will be interesting to see whether that pair of big-named arms manages to top the guarantees given to names like Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) and Zach Duke ($15MM).
  • As previously reported, Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins, who have also had discussions about fellow free agent righty Joba Chamberlain, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). And those aren’t the only arms still under consideration in Miami, per Heyman. The club is seemingly casting a wide net — waiting for a good value, perhaps — in adding a final piece before camp.
  • Red Sox closer Koji Uehara said today that his mid-season swoon was due in part to injury issues, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. The trouble was related to Uehara’s lower back, GM Ben Cherington said. Obviously, the club believes that he will be able to return without issue, given the contract it gave the veteran relief ace.
  • Breakout Angels starter Garrett Richards threw his first pen session since undergoing knee surgery last year, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Reports were solid on the 26-year-old righty, whose return — and ability to match his outstanding results from last year — will go a long way toward defining the club. Anything close to his 2014 showing would seemingly make Richards a prime extension target.


Pitching Notes: Pen Market, Beimel, Mets, Coke, Stroman

The Blue Jays and Indians appear not to be involved with any of the three best remaining relievers — righties Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain — according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider link). Other theoretically plausible landing spots seem fairly dried up as well, he notes in assessing the most likely remaining suitors.

Here are a few more pitching notes:

  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that the club spoke with lefty reliever Joe Beimel but that a deal could not be reached, Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets. Beimel had a nice rebound campaign last year in Seattle, and is one of the few southpaws left on the market.
  • The Mets will not be dealing away any pitchers unless circumstances change, Marc Carig of Newsday reports (Twitter links). Dillon Gee generated the most discussion, but New York never found an offer it liked and its prospective trade partners went with other options.
  • We checked in earlier this evening on K-Rod and lefty Phil Coke, each of whom has received some interest from the Marlins. Within that post, we noted a report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter) indicating that Coke still has hope of landing a big league pact.
  • Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays is likely not going anywhere any time soon, but I can’t help but link to this interesting piece from Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who explains that Stroman’s arsenal of pitches looks like it was assembled from amongst the best offerings of some of the very best arms in the game.

Marlins Pursuing Phil Coke, Considering Francisco Rodriguez

The Marlins are looking to pick up one or two of the few remaining free agent pen arms, according to a report from MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami is “looking to sign” southpaw Phil Coke to a minor league pact and remains open to striking a deal with Francisco Rodriguez, per the report.

If a deal is struck, the 32-year-old Coke would be given a spring invite and a chance to earn a role as the team’s second lefty out of the pen. Coke has put up less-than-outstanding results over the past two seasons, but induces groundballs at a handy rate and still brings a mid-90s fastball from the left side. The Steamer projection system, at least, expects better run prevention from him in 2015.

Of course, it is not clear that Miami will be able to woo Coke on a minor league deal. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter that the veteran is looking for a $2MM guarantee and still has possible fits on a big league commitment, with plenty of teams interested in minor league pacts.

As for Rodriguez, he would obviously need to be willing to function in a set-up role in front of closer Steve Cishek. He has been most closely connected to the Brewers, of course, and it is unclear whether Miami would look to compete or merely function as a lower-priced backup option if Milwaukee does not sign K-Rod. Even at this point in the offseason, Frisaro says that Rodriguez is expected to earn $10MM or more over two years.


Quick Hits: Luhnow, Coke, Reed, Bridich, Phillies

MLBTR sends our condolences to the family and colleagues of Alison Gordon, who passed away today at age 72.  Gordon covered the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star from 1979 to 1983, becoming the first woman to work as a full-time beat writer covering an MLB club, as well as the first female member of the Baseball Writers Association Of America.  The Star’s Brendan Kennedy has a fuller examination of Gordon’s career and her influence on countless female sportswriters.

Some news items from around the game…

  • GM Jeff Luhnow said the Astros could add “perhaps another reliever but not another starter at this point,” Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter).  The Astros added to their rotation depth earlier today by signing Roberto Hernandez, and the team could be closing in on a deal with left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher.
  • The Rangers are another team with a “strong interest” in Thatcher, as well as another lefty bullpen arm in Phil Coke, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Coke recently threw for Texas.
  • The arbitration hearing between Addison Reed and the Diamondbacks is scheduled for Friday unless the two sides can reach an agreement before then, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich discusses the team’s offseason and his own hiring in an interview with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro of the Denver Post’s Sports Show (video link).
  • Critics may claim the Phillies haven’t done enough to move their high-priced veterans this offseason, though Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the Phils have a right to be cautious given the scope of their rebuild.
  • Patience,” is how a Phillies executive responded when asked by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal if the club was frustrated by the lack of quality offers for Cole Hamels.  Both Rosenthal and the executive feel more trade opportunities could open up as teams’ needs change due to Spring Training injuries.
  • The Blue Jays and Indians don’t appear to be in on any of Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain, ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden writes.  The Tribe has less of a pressing need at the back of their bullpen given Cody Allen‘s emergence last season, while the Jays may also not specifically be looking for closing help, though they are looking at bullpen upgrades.
  • The Dodgers‘ hiring of Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to run the front office is the top transaction of the 2014-15 offseason, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron opines.  Three other Dodgers moves appear in Cameron’s list of the winter’s top 10 moves, and he calls them “probably the scariest organization in baseball” now that their financial resources have been augmented by Friedman/Zaidi’s creative maneuvers.

Scott Boras & The Waiting Game

Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano are the last two members of MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list who are still looking to find a new team.  It comes as little surprise that both pitchers are represented by the Boras Corporation, as one of Scott Boras’ signature tactics is his willingness to wait deep into the offseason to find an acceptable deal for his clients.  As the agent memorably put it two years ago, “People call me all the time and say, ‘Man, your players aren’t signed yet.’ Well, it doesn’t really matter what time dinner is when you’re the steak.”

According to MLBTR’s Transactions Tracker, 69 Boras clients have signed free agent contracts since the 2008-09 offseason, and 29 of them have signed on or after January 14.  I chose that date as it’s roughly a month before the opening of Spring Training camps, and while you could argue that Jan. 14 isn’t that late for major signings, consider that only nine contracts worth more than $30MM have been signed after that date during each of the last seven offseasons — and seven of those deals went to Boras Corporation clients.

Not even Boras client, of course, waits to sign a contract.  Jayson Werth and Jacoby Ellsbury are notable examples of Boras clients who signed mega-deals in early December.  In several other cases, however, Boras instead waits for the first rush of signings to take place and then surveys the market to see which (usually deep-pocketed) teams still have key positions to fill.  While this strategy inevitably thins out the number of suitors for a free agent, the teams that are left are theoretically more motivated to sign the player due to the scarcity on the market.

Waiting also has the upside of potentially creating a market where none existed.  The best example of Boras’ patience paying off was Prince Fielder, who wasn’t generating as much attention as expected when he hit free agency following the 2011 season.  After Victor Martinez tore his left ACL, however, Boras suddenly had the perfect storm of circumstance — he already had a strong relationship with Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, and the club was now in sore need of a big bat.  Little over a week after news of Martinez’s ACL tear broke on January 17, Fielder signed a nine-year/$214MM contract with Detroit that was, at the time, the fourth-biggest contract in baseball history.

This isn’t to say that waiting always works for Boras and his clients, as the new free agent rules put in place prior to the 2012-13 offseason have forced some Boras clients to suffer through longer-than-expected free agent stints.  While Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse still found healthy multiyear deals in the 2012-13 offseason despite respectively waiting until February 11 and March 25 to sign, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales weren’t as fortunate last winter.  Drew had to wait until May to re-sign with the Red Sox, while Morales had to wait until after the June amateur draft to escape the draft pick compensation tied to his services and subsequently sign with the Twins.  In those cases, a market simply didn’t emerge, and the lack of a proper Spring Training for Drew and Morales undoubtedly contributed to those players’ struggles in 2014.

Needless to say, Boras only wants his clients to wait out the market on their own terms, not on the qualifying offer’s terms.  The agent has harshly criticized the QO system, arguing that it acts as a roadblock to a truly open market and “penalizes premium performance.”  Defenders of the qualifying offer might counter that Boras is exaggerating by describing mid-tier free agents like Drew or Morales as “premium.”  Indeed, most top free agents who reject the QO have still found major contracts, including Boras Corporation client Max Scherzer just a few weeks ago.

Rodriguez and Soriano, of course, don’t have qualifying offers hanging over them, though both veteran relievers face other concerns about their ages (Soriano is 35, K-Rod 33), declining fastballs and whether either is a reliable option for a team looking for a closer.  Despite these question marks, Boras’ track record makes it a good bet that both pitchers will end up with a comfortable one-year deal.  Four teams are known to be interested in Rodriguez, while Soriano would seem to be a logical fit for those same clubs as a possible Plan-B option.

Then again, maybe I’m thinking too small for Soriano given how Boras has twice found larger-than-expected contracts from unlikely sources during the righty’s two previous turns in free agency.  Any team’s plans can unexpectedly change all the way up until Opening Day (or even beyond), and more often than not, Boras has managed to squeeze every bit of value out of every minute of his clients’ free agent status.


Free Agent Notes: Shields, Olivera, Alvarez, K-Rod

James Shields‘s new deal with the Padres is less valuable to him than it might have been had he signed it elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes, citing CPA Robert Raiola. Taxes (and agent fees) would have put the Cubs’ reported three-year, $60MM offer in the ballpark (~$4.5MM shy) of the total guarantee Shields actually received — assuming, at least, that Shields would have resided in the home state of either club. Of course, state taxes impact every deal, though it is only on occasion that we stop to consider it. To take but a few examples, the large Mike Trout, Buster Posey, and Clayton Kershaw extensions were signed with clubs playing in high-tax California, while Giancarlo Stanton is locked up for the foreseeable future in Florida, which does not charge income tax.

We’ll save the rest of that expansive topic for another day. Here are a few more free agent notes:

  • As Steve Adams and I discuss on today’s podcast (to be released early this afternoon), Cuban infielder Hector Olivera actually seems a somewhat under-hyped story this spring. Ben Badler of Baseball America writes that Olivera has scouts “excited about [his] potential to make an immediate impact on a major league team in 2015.” While still not technically a free agent, Olivera is expected to be declared one shortly. When he does, his market will get very interesting. Badler writes that teams expect Olivera to seek money in the ballpark of that given by the Red Sox to Rusney Castillo ($12MM annually over six years), in AAV if not also years. That is no guarantee he will be paid that way, of course, and Olivera has some health questions. But if those concerns are resolved, Badler says he prefers the veteran to both Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, noting that some teams view him as an above-average big leaguer from the get-go.
  • If you want to have a look at Olivera, check out this video of his work yesterday from Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. McDaniel also has motion footage of live-armed 18-year-old righty Yadier Alvarez, who he labels the “hottest name in baseball.” Alvarez is still rather early in the process of seeking free agency, but should be available to sign before too long.
  • Free agent righty Francisco Rodriguez is still looking for a two-year deal Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in a piece full of several interesting bits of information. Rodriguez is the top-ranked free agent left unsigned, slotting in just ahead of fellow late-inning reliever Rafael Soriano. The Brewers remain interested in a reunion with K-Rod, per the report.

Quick Hits: K-Rod, Rockies, Baker

The White Sox and Brewers have had the best and worst offseasons, respectively, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The White Sox were aggressive but conservative in spending their financial flexibility and did well by not surrendering any top prospects to acquire Jeff Samardzija. The Brewers, meanwhile, are not good enough to compete in the NL Central now or in the near future and should have either made a big play for a free agent like James Shields or turned over the roster on a grander scale than just trading Yovani Gallardo.

Elsewhere in baseball:

  • If the Marlins are unable to further upgrade their rotation, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro advocates the club signing Francisco Rodriguez, not to supplant closer Steve Cishek but to solidify the back end of their bullpen. Frisaro tweeted the Marlins could apply their arbitration savings of $1.265MM (achieved with the Mike Dunn extension and in winning the Mat Latos arbitration hearing) towards signing Rodriguez. Earlier today, Frisaro reported the Marlins have contacted K-Rod’s agent, Scott Boras.
  • GM Jeff Bridich sees the free agent signing of Kyle Kendrick and the acquisition of David Hale as updgrading the Rockies‘ rotation, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. “I certainly feel like the depth has been addressed to a certain degree,” Bridich said. “We were involved in both free agency and trades. Again, we have a good sense of what Kyle Kendrick is and what he can do. I think he has proven himself. With the acquisition of somebody like Hale … I think there is upside there.
  • MLB.com’s Terence Moore profiles Dusty Baker, who would “like to have another chance to manage, because the only thing lacking in my career is” a World Series ring, but is content if he never receives that opportunity.
  • Cuban infielder Alejandro Ortiz has petitioned for free agency and is expected to hit the market soon, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The 24-year-old, who possesses speed and a good glove, played five seasons in Serie Nacional, so he is exempt from counting against a team’s international signing bonus pool.

Marlins Have Reached Out To K-Rod

The Marlins have reached out to agent Scott Boras regarding Francisco Rodriguez, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com (on Twitter).  Nothing is imminent on that front, but the club could circle back to K-Rod at some point as they look to bolster their bullpen.

It has been speculated for some time that Miami could go after Rodriguez and earlier today, GM Dan Jennings hinted to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM that he is considering the veteran.  Miami isn’t alone in that pursuit, however, as the Blue JaysPhillies, and Brewers are among the clubs that have been connected to him.

The Brewers are looking at Rodriguez as a fallback if they cannot work out a trade with the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon.  Rodriguez pitched to a 3.11 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 57 saves in 193 2/3 innings for Milwaukee.  The 33-year-old arguably stands as the best closing option available on the open market, but things have yet to come together for him.  His fate seems to be tied somewhat to the outcome of the Papelbon situation – the Brewers view him as their Plan B and the Phillies seem likely to pursue K-Rod if Papelbon is moved.