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Risk/Reward of the Fernando Rodney Signing

SEATTLE - APRIL 18:  Closing pitcher Fernando Rodney #56 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates after the 2-0 win against the Seattle Mariners on April 18, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Josh LevittSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2009

The Angels made their second big free agent signing by coming to terms with Fernando Rodney on a two year/$11 million dollar contract:

Angels General Manager Tony Reagins did a little last-minute Christmas shopping today. And while he didn't get exactly what he wanted to put under the tree, he's pretty happy with what he did get -- hard-throwing reliever Fernando Rodney, who set a franchise record by converting 37 of 38 save opportunities for the Detroit Tigers last season.

Rodney, a 32-year-old free agent, agreed in principle to a two-year, $11-million contract to provide depth at the back of an already-deep bullpen that will return major league saves leader Brian Fuentes.

It wasn't, however, the perfect gift. That's because Rodney's 4.40 earned-run average last season was the highest among American League relievers with at least 20 saves. Plus, he is 4-17 with a 4.48 ERA over the past three seasons. And in 2007 and 2008, he missed 20 weeks with tendinitis in his pitching arm.

I am normally a huge fan of Angels GM Tony Reagins, but I'm not a fan of this deal at all. As I've outlined, there is far too much risk involved with this deal even though Rodney does bring some skills to the table.

Risk:

  • Two years for Fernando Rodney. Really?
  • Almost $6 million annually is a lot to pay for a set up man, let alone a mediocre one like Rodney
  • ERA has not been lower than 4 since 2006
  • Injury history
  • Career WHIP of 1.42
  • Lacks control (41 walks last season)
  • Sure Rodney has closing experience, but that doesn't mean he was a quality closer.

Reward:

  • Closing experience
  • Great arm
  • Gives the Angels another option to close should Fuentes struggle again
  • Can Fuentes and Rodney become a productive 1-2 punch late in games?

Conclusion: Given how much the Angels bullpen and Brian Fuentes struggled last season, it does not surprise me to see the Angels shore up their bullpen. However, is Rodney really the guy the Angels want? He's far from reliable, walks too many hitters, gives up too many hits, and has never been a dominant pitcher at any point during his seven year career. And in my opinion, giving Rodney two years was a foolish move because it increases the risk associated with this deal. Given how poorly the market for relief pitchers has panned out (besides Brandon Lyon) and how many relief options (Dotel, Gregg, Howry, Park, etc.) remain on the free agent market, there was no reason to commit so heavily to Rodney.

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