Almost a year to the day that they traded him away to the Milwaukee Brewers for Adrian Rosario and Daniel Herrera, the Brew Crew’s set-up man, Francisco Rodriguez, is reportedly one of Sandy Alderson’s targets for upgrading the New York bullpen. Would it be a good idea to bring K-R0d back to Flushing, especially when his first tour with the Mets wasn’t all sunshine and roses?
After being traded hours following the 2011 All-Star game last year, Rodriguez did a good job as the Brewers’ set-up man to closer John Axford, although he did complain about not getting enough chances to close out games himself. Ken Davidoff wrote in the New York Post that this option isn’t the worst one out there and there are reasons why bringing K-Rod back to Flushing as their closer would make sense. He’s making $8 million this year, with about half of that salary left, and would be a free agent at the end of the season, so the Mets wouldn’t have to give up valuable prospects if they take on the rest of his salary, and he can go elsewhere in the winter, effectively being a rental. He knows how New York operates, and with Frank Franciscoon the disabled list, there is no guarantee when the Mets’ current closer will be healthy enough to return.
If the Brewers decide to go into sell mode after the All-Star game in Kansas City and New York strikes a deal to bring back K-Rod, I think it would be a big mistake. Yes, it’s nice to see our front office working to legitimately improve our bullpen with a reliever that has a good resume, but we all know that K-Rod in New York doesn’t work, so why try again? Davidoff has a point, the Mets could do worse, like make a deal for a reliever with a worse reputation, like Brett Myers, but just because a relationship didn’t work the first time around, that doesn’t mean a break will help the second time around.
To add to that, Rodriguez isn’t even having a great year, compared to his 2011 campaign. Before being shipped off to Milwaukee, K-Rod was actually one of the few consistent relievers in another bad Mets bullpen, as he went 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA, converting 23 saves in 26 opportunities. As the Brewers’ set-up man, he performed even better, going 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA and 17 holds in 31 games. His opponent BA went down from .265 in Flushing to .209 in Milwaukee, and saw his WHIP decreased 0.27 (1.41 to 1.14) after the mid-season change in scenery.
However, 2012 has seen a different pitcher in K-Rod. Although his fastball velocity has increased (90.3 mph to 91.5 mph), he’s 1-4 with a 4.00 ERA in 39 appearances. He’s notched 16 holds already, but has blown three of four save opportunities and his WHIP is the highest it’s been (1.47) since he was in Single-A ball. Why has his performance gone south compared to a year before? His GO/FO ratio isn’t as good as last year (1.19 in ’12 vs. 1.38 in ’11), and with these increased fly balls, he’s allowed the same number of home runs this year (4) in 39 appearances as he did last year in 73 appearances.
Don’t forget, he plays most of his games at the hitter friendly Miler Park, so a change back to Citi Field could help him and his increased rate of fly balls. To cut down on these fly balls, he would have to start throwing his curveball more often. Compared to last year, he’s relied more on his changeup (18.7% of pitches in ’11 vs. 24.6% in ’12) and has thrown his breaking ball much less (21.1% in ’11 vs. 16.9% in ’12), which hitters are taking advantage of.
Finally, it would make no sense to trade for K-Rod to close games when Frank Francisco has done a great job after his early season struggles. That’s the one part of the bullpen that doesn’t need the most help. Francisco and Bobby Parnell have shown they can handle the 8th and 9th innings consistently enough, but it’s the bridge to them that is the problem. The Mets desperately need middle relief help, and unless K-Rod wants to pitch in the 6th and the 7th inning (which I doubt), Sandy Alderson should keep looking for other options.
Do you think K-Rod would be a good fit for the Mets bullpen this year?