That’ll be a tall order for a 38-year-old who hasn’t touched the majors since 2017. But Rodriguez is setting his sights higher still.
It seems that part of the motivation here for K-Rod is the possibility of burnishing his Hall-of-Fame resume. If possible, he says, he’d like to meet or exceed Lee Smith in total saves … which would mean adding another 41 to an already impressive tally of 437, fourth-most in MLB history.
Sound implausible? Well, it’s hard to come to a different conclusion. It’s not even clear precisely how Rodriguez would launch a new effort in the current climate of uncertainty. But he suggests he has already considered and rejected that line of thinking.
Rodriguez isn’t taking this lightly. He acknowledges he’ll have to earn another shot at the majors. And he’s certainly familiar with the difficulties of a late-career comeback, having tried for years already to launch one.
The last time Rodriguez appeared in the affiliated ranks, things didn’t go well. He turned in a brutal showing with the Tigers in 2017, leading to his release. The Nats gave him a brief look in the minors but weren’t impressed. Rodriguez spent the ensuing spring with the Phillies but didn’t make the team and was cut loose.
Rodriguez has since pitched for the indy ball Long Island Ducks and Mexican League’s Acereros de Monclova. Though he was reasonably effective in both stints, the once-great hurler didn’t show enough to prompt renewed interest from MLB clubs.
Even if he isn’t able to build it further, Rodriguez has already compiled a case for Cooperstown. He may not have logged quite as many saves as Trevor Hoffman, but the two put up awfully similar careers. K-Rod owns a 2.86 ERA in 976 innings over 16 seasons, while Hoffman hung ’em up with a 2.87 ERA in 1,089 1/3 frames through 18 campaigns.