TODAY: Rodriguez will have an opt-out opportunity on July 12th, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. That gives the Nats about two weeks to watch the veteran throw at Triple-A before making a decision on adding him to the MLB roster.
YESTERDAY, 7:27pm: A deal is now in place, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link).
3:09pm: The Nationals and veteran right-hander Francisco Rodriguez are nearing agreement on a minor league contract, according to reports from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) and Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported earlier today that Washington was pursuing the Beverly Hills Sports Council client, who was released by the Tigers over the weekend.
Editor’s Note: an earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that the contract had been finalized.
The 35-year-old Rodriguez was clobbered for a 7.82 ERA through 25 1/3 innings in Detroit thanks largely to a staggering nine home runs allowed in that small sample of work. He’s had success with a diminished fastball in recent seasons, but this year’s average of 88.9 mph is the lowest of his storied career.
For all of his 2017 struggles, Rodriguez did post a very solid 3.24 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a career-high 54.7 percent ground-ball rate as the Tigers’ closer in 2016, totaling 44 saves throughout the year. He’s earning $8MM this year, though the Tigers are on the hook for the remainder of that considerable sum. The Nats will only have to pay K-Rod the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time he spends in the Majors.
Though the Nationals are running away with the NL East, their bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster in 2017. Washington’s 4.88 bullpen ERA ranks 26th in the Majors, and the Nats also rank 25th in bullpen FIP (4.72) and 21st in bullpen xFIP (4.52). The Nats currently have de facto closer Koda Glover and veteran righty Shawn Kelley on the disabled list along with lefty Sammy Solis. With that group on the shelf, the team is presently relying on Matt Albers, Enny Romero, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez, Joe Blanton, Matt Grace and Jacob Turner to comprise its relief corps.
Obviously, there’s no guarantee that Rodriguez will serve as any type of upgrade over that bunch, but given the state of Dusty Baker’s bullpen, the Nats figure to be at least loosely interested in virtually any veteran reliever that becomes available. Moreover, it’ll be a shock if general manager Mike Rizzo doesn’t make at least one notable bullpen acquisition on the trade market, and it’s possible that he could look to acquire multiple relievers between now and the July 31 non-waiver deadline.