The Baltimore Orioles have had quite a drama filled offseason when it comes to the closer's role as they traded the leader in saves in all of baseball over the past two years in Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics, then agreed to terms with free agent closer Grant Balfour only to back out of the deal when his physical results were not to the team's liking. Next the team has essentially given the job to Tommy Hunter, but now reports are resurfacing that the team is interested in free agent closer Fernando Rodney.
Rodney, and perhaps along with Francisco Rodriguez, is the only remaining big time free agent closer and the first thought that would have to come to mind is why?
For starters, his age is a little bit of a concern as he will turn 37 this March, but another is the amount of work he has put in over the past five seasons. Rodney has appeared in at least 68 or more games in four of the last five seasons, with three of those producing 72 or more appearances. That kind of work load with his age is a bit of a concern. In addition, when free agency began, it was rumored that Rodney was looking for a multi-year deal worth $10 million per year and obviously no team was willing to do that or he wouldn't still be a free agent. Odds are, now he is more open to a one year deal or a two year deal worth much less than $10 million per.
At age 35, Rodney produced one of the best seasons a closer has ever put up in 2012 as he converted 48 of 50 save opportunities, finished 65 games, appeared in 76 and posted a miniscule 0.60 ERA. Pretty good right? He finished fifth in Cy Young voting that season and 13th in MVP voting.
Last season Rodney came back to earth as his ERA, albeit still good at 3.38, jumped back up and he also blew eight of his 45 save opportunities. In addition to his ERA coming back to reality, so to did his knack for making things interesting as his WHIP was 1.335, after posting a 0.777 WHIP in 2012 and when you put people on base, things get very interesting for a closer.
One thing that does do that every team would love out of their closer is strike people out. Last season he struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings, and he did so while also keeping the ball in the ball park as he allowed just 0.4 homers per nine innings of work.
There are two underlying questions for the Orioles if they truly want to try and sign Rodney, the first of which is the money it would take because if they end up giving him $9 or $10 million for one year, the fan base will go ballistic because the team did not want to give Johnson $10 million this season.
Secondly, is whether or not he would be a better option for the team than Hunter would be. We all know about Hunter's inability to get left handed hitters out as they hit .294 against him over his career and he has a knack for giving up the long ball. We have already touched on the fact that Rodney keeps the ball in the yard, but his ability to get hitters out from both sides of the plate is a huge upgrade over Hunter. Fernando holds left handed hitters to a lower average (.246) than Hunter does against right handers (.247) nonetheless lefties. Rodney also has much better success against right handers as he holds them to a .215 batting average.
If the Orioles can sign Rodney to a one year deal worth $6-7 million, then it should be a no brainer for them as he would obviously be an upgrade over anything they currently have at the closer's role.
Of course, obtaining a quality starting pitcher should be the team's first concern.
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