Milwaukee Brewers: Francisco Rodriguez Accepts Arbitration, Must Be Traded

Jason ShollContributor IIIDecember 10, 2011

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 13:  Francisco Rodriguez #57 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after he struck out Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals to end the bottom of the eighth inning during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 13, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When the Milwaukee Brewers offered Francisco Rodriguez arbitration, they thought it would be a smart move. I understand that the team wanted to get compensation for the reliever, but unfortunately it ended up backfiring on them.

Not only did the Brewers lose out on a draft pick, they are now on the hook to pay a setup man $13 million. The team also missed out on the chance to sign other relievers such as Octavio Dotel and LaTroy Hawkins, both who would have been much cheaper options. Dotel signed a one-year deal with the Tigers for $3.5 million, while Hawkins agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with the Angels. Keep in mind Hawkins had a 2.42 ERA with the Brew Crew just this past season.  

Rodriguez, who complained all last season about wanting to close, accepted arbitration because he obviously was unable to a find a team to pay him more than what the Brewers offered. Manager Ron Roenicke has already stated that John Axford will remain the team’s closer, so K-Rod’s wish of closing will not come true in Milwaukee. Axford was lights out for the Crew in 2011, saving 46 games in 48 chances, while also posting an ERA of just 1.95.

Losing Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins definitely makes Rodriguez more valuable to the Brewers, but there are other affordable options that they could have pursued. The Brewers also have some nice young relievers in Kameron Loe, Marco Estrada and obviously Axford. Not to mention, Zach Braddock is expected to be a key contributor in the team’s pen in 2012. Braddock missed most of the 2011 season, but in 2010, the 24-year-old posted a 2.94 ERA in 46 games.

I do also like that the Brewers addressed their problem at shortstop by signing Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal. However, now that they have K-Rod’s contract, the rest of the team’s offseason plans might be in jeopardy.

Before Rodriguez accepted arbitration the Brewers were rumored to be front-runners for the Cubs’ Aramis Ramirez, and now the third baseman will probably be out of the team’s price range. Ramirez, who already turned down arbitration from the Cubs, is seeking a lucrative contract for three to four years.The Brewers want to keep their payroll under $100 million, and with K-Rod accepting arbitration it currently puts the team over the $80 million mark.

What the Brewers need to do is find a team to take K-Rod off their hands. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said there are several teams who already expressed trade interest in Rodriguez. It’s not too surprising that teams are interested in the righty, especially if the Brewers are willing to eat a portion of his contract.

Before K-Rod was traded to Milwaukee, he recorded 23 saves in 26 opportunities for the Mets, and is someone who can still definitely help out a ballclub. Personally, I would like if the Brewers negotiated a new contract with Rodriguez, but only if it’s for $10 million or less per year. Rodriguez is still an asset to the team, but paying $13 million for a setup man is just absurd. Not even Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell are making $13 million a season.

Another option for the Brewers would be to release K-Rod before spring training, a move that could potentially save the team $10 million to $11 million. This option seems unlikely because K-Rod appears to have plenty of suitors, but it is still a possibility.

Any way you look at it, the Brewers must find a way to get out of paying $13 million for a guy who is not even their closer.