With the New York Mets nearly 10 games out of first place, it should not surprise anyone if they start selling off assets. Aside from Jose Reyes, one of those assets is closer Francisco Rodriguez. Although Rodriguez wants to close out games, he would not be opposed to a set-up role with a contending team like the Tampa Bay Rays.
“If I am going to be traded, obviously I want the opportunity to close out games, but if it’s going to be good teams like the Yankees or the Rays, and it’s going to be for two months, I can go out there and help them out,
Rodriguez, 29, is not as dominant as he once was, but a 3.25/3.02/3.13 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) line says he is still one of the better relief pitchers in baseball. He does not throw as hard as he once did; however, he has struck out 41 batters in 36 innings with a manageable amount of walks and home runs allowed. Despite the dip in velocity (low-90s as opposed to mid-90s), K-Rod is still getting swings and misses (10.9%) and has become more groundball friendly this season (44.9%).
If the Rays are able to remain in contention throughout the month of July, the back-end of the bullpen will be a topic of discussion for improvement. Aside from Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta, the Rays lack a true third option in high-leverage situations. Rodriguez would certainly be an upgrade, but one that would likely cost more than the Rays are willing to pay.
In addition to the prospects needed to trade for him, Rodriguez is owed around $6 million in salary for the rest this season. If he finishes 55 games this season (currently at 28 games finished), a $17.5 million option for 2012 becomes guaranteed. Even if that option doesn’t vest, he is owed a $3.5 million buyout. The Mets may be willing to pick up some of the tab, but that would likely mean better prospects headed their way in a trade.
Once more, a contending Rays’ team will need to address the high-leverage situation in their bullpen. On the other hand, the answer is more likely to come from within or in a lesser trade than a high-price reliever. A healthy J.P. Howell is one solution and an improved Jake McGee would be another.
R.J. touched on McGee’s work with secondary stuff in Durham. Since his return to Triple-A, the young lefty has shown improved control with 28 strikeouts and just five walks in just over 26 innings. He has also seen his groundball rate climb above 50%. In addition to Howell and McGee, Juan Cruz is showing improved control as he continues his comeback from 2010 shoulder surgery.