If you ever troubled yourself with the question whether Fernando Rodney would seek to continue pitching — well, put those fears to rest. At least four teams have shown some level of interest in the veteran hurler, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter).
Rodney, 43 in March, still delivers a mid-nineties fastball and devastating changeup — sufficient to support an 11.0% swinging-strike rate, 9.3 K/9 strikeout rate, and 49.6% groundball rate in the just-completed campaign. Of course, he also permitted more than five free passes per nine and surrendered a good bit of hard contact. It’d be a stretch to call Rodney a Statcast darling, but he did fare better in the eyes of the fancy cameras than he did on paper (.308 xwOBA vs. .332 wOBA).
There’s reason, then, to believe Rodney is better than the 5.66 ERA he logged in 47 2/3 total frames last year. Perhaps Rodney’s 4.05 mark with the Nationals, accrued over his final 33 1/3 innings of the regular season, is a more accurate read on his true talent at this advanced age.
While we wait to see which tilted cap Rodney will don this spring, it’s worth pausing to appreciate just how remarkable he has been to this point. Once a forgettable pitcher who seemed destined to fade away, Rodney emerged as a late-inning monster in his mid-thirties, stole MLB’s heart with his arrow-launching celebrations, and then forgot that his body was supposed to break down. There’s no hope of a return to his silly-good 2012 form; even the 3.36 ERA performance of 2018 would be a stretch. But would anyone be all that surprised if Rodney throws 50+ mostly useful, always entertaining innings in 2020?