Francisco Rodriguez sweet-talked Terry Collins into letting him close out last night’s 6-3 win over the Dodgers, even after Terry said he wouldn’t be using K-Rod following his 42-pitch outing Thursday. It was the 29-year-old’s eighth save and 10th game finished, and 32 games into the season that puts him on pace for 51 games finished. If that number reaches 55 then Frankie’s $17.5 mil option vests, given he’s healthy at the end of the year. If he does not get to 55, the option doesn’t vest, given the MLBPA doesn’t accuse the Mets of intentionally stopping him from getting there.
As Amazin’ Avenue’s Eno Sarris wrote back in January, the Mets can ensure Frankie doesn’t finish 55 games and keep the Player’s Association off their backs by using him in high-leverage situations before the 9th while still calling him their closer. However, they don’t seem to be following that plan. K-Rod has finished 10 of the 14 games he’s appeared in, and while he has entered in the 8th inning four times, three of those times have resulted in GFs. The Mets haven’t let him pitch in any games the Mets won by more than three runs, but there have only been three of those situations this season.
The Mets are 14-18 and in last place in the NL East. Whether they continue to be a sub-.500 team or pull themselves into the playoff picture, trading Frankie before the deadline is a no-brainer.
If they do continue to struggle, that means they can focus on the future — improving the minor league system. If they don’t, that means they will be winning more games, which means more save situations for K-Rod, which could lead to an awkward situation down the stretch. Rodriguez finished at least 56 games every year from 2005 to 2008 with the Angels, who won 89+ games in each of those years, and he finished 66 in 2009, even though the Mets went 70-92. Keeping him under 55 is tough to justify, especially if the team is contending.
K-Rod also has an 11.5 M contract this year, as well as a 3.5 M buyout that the team would have to pay even if the option doesn’t vest. That alone is reason enough to trade him before the deadline. If they do, they would still probably subsidize at least that 3.5 mil, if not more, but hopefully they can find a happy medium between saving money and appeasing whatever team they’re dealing with to get more player value in return. The Mets will be in a similar situation if they trade Beltran — they’ll have to decide how much of his remaining 2011 contract to pay for.
As we know by now, Sandy Alderson will try to shop at least one of Rodriguez, Beltran or Reyes. I may be in the minority in actually thinking (as opposed to just hoping) that Jose will remain a Met — I think Alderson realizes how much Reyes means to the fans, and Jose might settle for somewhat less than he is worth so he can stay. Beltran to me seems more likely to be traded, since he has looked great recently but is a bigger injury concern, and is not held as closely to Met fans’ hearts.
Regardless, the bottom line is that the Mets have much more to lose than they do to gain by keeping K-Rod. He has been very effective this season despite allowing a ton of baserunners, but the Mets are paying him more than he is worth, especially considering that they can’t let him pitch as much as he normally does. If the Mets want to even consider keeping Reyes, K-Rod’s gotta go.