Sometimes the best move a team can make in the offseason is letting someone else sign one of their big free agents. After the 2008 season, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reliever Francisco Rodriguez declared his free agency.
The closer had just notched a major league record 62 saves. He had a solid ERA, WHIP and great strikeout to innings pitched ratio. At age 26, he finished in the top five for the Cy Young vote three times.
Plus, he was a key member of the 2002 World Series champions and four additional division championships.
The Angels had to keep him. He was integral to the success of the team.
Who could have thought that letting him go would be a smart thing? (Actually, this author did in an October 2008 blog post, but that is unimportant.)
Then, Angels general manager Tony Reagins did not outbid the New York Mets for Rodriguez's services, and "K-Rod" went to Queens.
As bad as that may have looked then, it sure looks smart now.
The Angels finally got past their nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, in the 2009 division series without Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez had two and a half tense seasons in Queens. He did compile some saves.
He also quarreled with his coaches, showed up his teammates, picked fights with players on other teams and beat up the elderly father of his girlfriend. He was suspended, charged with assault and was not exactly a beloved figure in Mets history.
He got shipped off to Milwaukee, where he is blowing games night after night. With his contract expiring soon and his ERA rising, his days as a premier reliever are all but over.
The Angels avoided all of that and dodged shelling out $37 million of guaranteed money to Rodriguez.
But they also got a pair of draft picks as compensation for Rodriguez leaving for the Mets. Randal Grichuk is a 20-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder who has hit for power and speed for Single-A Inland Empire.
The other player they drafted was Garret Richards. The 24-year-old right-handed pitcher has had some limited success on the major league level this year. He struggled in his last start against Kansas City, but in his previous outing on July 17 he pitched seven shutout innings against Detroit.
The former University of Oklahoma star has given the Angels four quality starts and, at 24 years old, he gives the Angels some depth for the future.
Somehow, he was not included in the Zack Grienke trade and remains an Angel. As the team builds towards building a winner for years to come, he could be a key piece for years.
Meanwhile, ask his new teammate Grienke about how effective Francisco Rodriguez is. The Angels are much better off with Richards now.
Letting Rodriguez go turned out to be the right move.
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