In a stunning move seemingly out of nowhere, the Athletics announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Fernando Rodney from the Twins in exchange for minor league righty Dakota Chalmers. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports that the A’s will assume all of Rodney’s remaining salary (around 1.3MM).
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the transaction came as the result of a waiver claim by the Athletics, meaning Rodney never cleared revocable trade waivers. The 42-year-old was certainly a logical August trade candidate, as MLBTR’s own Connor Byrne noted this past Saturday; more recently, the Twins’ closer appeared near the top of our Top 20 August Trade Candidates, checking in at number seven. He’s a reasonably affordable option for the surging yet cost-conscious A’s.
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Rodney has long been an effective MLB reliever, and has served mainly as a closer across the past decade. His 325 career saves rank 17th all-time among relievers, and although he’s certainly shown some fluctuation in performance over the course of his lifetime, his 3.09 ERA at present would be his best in a full season since 2014 with the Mariners. The veteran has managed to strike out more than ten batters per nine innings in five of the past six campaigns and owns a solid if unspectacular 3.70 ERA (3.73 FIP) over the course of his 16-year MLB career.
For the A’s, it’s the latest move to bolster an already-spectacular relief corps. Headed into the second half of July, the club already boasted three relievers with a Win Probability Added of 1.00 or higher (Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino and Yusmeiro Petit). Since then, they’ve added Jeurys Familia in a trade with the Mets, claimed Shawn Kelley off waivers from the Nationals, and plucked Mike Fiers from the paws of the Tigers. Rodney serves as the club’s fourth major bullpen addition over the course of the past month, fortifying an already-terrifying group.
That’s excellent work on the part of the club’s front office, as it’ll help mask the club’s uninspiring rotation. Sean Manaea’s currently the club’s only starter with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, in no small part due to the wreckage of torn UCLs suffered by rotation candidates this season. Daniel Gossett, Kendall Graveman, Jharel Cotton and top prospect A.J. Puk are all done for the season after requiring Tommy John surgery, leaving the club with a starting group of ragtag veterans that includes Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson, each of whom has outperformed expectations. With an eye on October, it seems as though the Athletics are likely to use starters for short outings in the postseason and rely on a deep bullpen to handle the remainder of the workload.
Perhaps one of the more surprising elements of this deal is the fact that Rodney went unclaimed by the Indians, who had waiver priority over the Athletics and one of the worst bullpens in baseball. With three strong lefties in their pen and no viable right-handed options beyond Adam Cimber and struggling closer Cody Allen, Rodney would have provided a strong upgrade to the Cleveland bullpen. Likewise, the Mariners (who’re in close competition with them for a wild card spot) also passed on Rodney, allowing him to be claimed by a division rival rather than using him to patch their own relief corps.
The inclusion of Chalmers is a fascinating element of this deal, as the 21-year-old right hander has yet to accrue any significant professional resume following his selection by the A’s as the 97th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He didn’t rank among the club’s top 30 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s latest rankings, but Fangraphs considered him to within that group, ranking him 23rd in the A’s farm system. Chalmers had to step away from baseball late in 2017 for personal reasons, and Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen mentioned that he’s struggled with his control since returning. Though his velocity sits in the low-to-mid-90’s, there’s some skepticism that he’ll ever develop the command necessary to work multiple innings. He won’t pitch for the remainder of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier this season.