2011 Season In Review: Francisco Rodriguez
The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an on-going series, will analyze every single Mets player that picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at closer Francisco Rodriguez.Never before has the word “vesting” been used so often as it was in Mets circles between Spring Training and the All-Star break in 2011. That’s because this year, Met fans were more concerned with closer Francisco Rodriguez’s vesting option than they were with his ability to close games. This was the third and final guaranteed year of his contract, and his fourth-year, $17.5M option would “vest” — the Mets would have to pay it — if he reached 55 games finished. To sidestep the issue, Sandy Alderson traded K-Rod to the Brewers in July.
For the first half of the season, fans were concerned because K-Rod was on pace to exceed the 55 GF mark, though he was pitching well. The Mets had little choice but to use him in save situations to avoid any grievances from the league, but they were also letting him finish games in non-save situations. By May 26, he had appeared in 24 games, was 15-for-16 in save opportunities, and had a 0.74 ERA. But what worried people was that he had 19 games finished — four of which were in non-save spots — putting him on pace for an alarming 82 GF.
From late May through the end of June, Rodriguez struggled, allowing runs in four out of five outings from May 27 to June 5, and then allowing runs in three out of four appearances between June 16 and June 26. He regained his form in July, earning a win and three saves in what would be his last four games as a Met, the last of which was on July 8. He pitched 42 times for the Mets in 2011 and had a 3.16 ERA, 23 SV, and 34 GF. Heading into the All-Star break, he was on pace to finish 62 games.
Of course, the main concern at that time was the Jose Reyes situation (some things never change), and because Reyes had such a stellar first half despite an injury, the feeling was that the Mets must keep him past the trading deadline. Also, with reports that the Mets’ payroll would be limited in 2012, trading K-Rod before the deadline was a must for Alderson if he was going to have any shot at paying Jose in the offseason.
Sandy came through, sending Rodriguez to Milwaukee on July 13 for two “players to be named later.” (The Mets later announced those players: Single-A righty Adrian Rosario and Triple-A southpaw Danny Herrera.) The Mets paid $5M of K-Rod’s just-over $12M salary for 2011. The deal was perfect for the Brewers, who needed a setup man to support closer John Axford, and used K-Rod in the 8th inning to make sure his option would not vest. He was effective for a red-hot Brew Crew, earning 17 holds and lowering his ERA to 2.64 for the year. He also allowed just one run and had three holds in five innings of playoff work.
It seems likely that Alderson had a deal in place to trade his closer long before he actually pulled the trigger. If he had been unable to get rid of Rodriguez, it would have been very difficult to keep him under the 55-game threshold. In August it was reported that K-Rod actually wanted to get rid of his $17.5M option during the season. However, it is hard to believe that his agent Scott Boras would have agreed to this unless the Mets offered K-Rod a new contract, something they were not prepared to do.
Now, the man who spent two-and-a-half years in a Met uniform is one of many free-agent closers on the market this offseason. The Mets need one of those after Bobby Parnell was unimpressive in the role, and K-Rod has said he would be willing to return to New York. However, the Mets would like to start fresh as much as possible in 2012, and therefore a homecoming seems unlikely.