It should be an interesting offseason for the Seattle Mariners. Jack Zduriencik is tasked with taking a team that remained in the playoff race until the very last day and make it into a team that is selling tickets in October. The Mariners, through some faithful re-stocking of the farm and some sad years of baseball, are in a position where they have a multitude of players to fill into holes should a trade happen.
One of those potential holes is at the closer spot. Most likely, Fernando Rodney won't be traded. He was weirdly one of the best closers in the league despite each appearance he made feeling like a season finale of Breaking Bad.
Closers hold a weird gig in the national past time. Some people believe that you got to have what it takes to close out games. Other people believe that closers are, Mariano Rivera withstanding, a dime a dozen. I tend to lean towards the latter opinion, so the idea of being able to trade Rodney for something to make the team better is an interesting prospect.
The Mariners, pre-FRE year, have a history of shoving someone into the closing spot and watching them succeed. Going back five years, the Mariners found David Aardsma, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar all to have the moxie apparently required to close games. To be fair to the people who think closers are a special breed -- none of those four pitchers are closing right now.
Here is how the Mariners' closers have fared over the past five seasons while retaining the closing gig.
|player||year||# of saves||xFIP||WAR|
The Mariners' staff has been pretty successful at finding the right replacement with things went awry. Rodney definitely racked up the most saves in the process out of all of them, but that is also because the Mariners won more games in 2014 than other years. Rodney was also the most expensive out of the entire bunch.
Theoretically, Rodney is a solid trade chip. Despite his age, he has shown that he can settle teams down in the ninth inning and get the job done (most of the time). The Texas Rangers showed this past season that some teams still value the idea of a veteran closer. The Rangers sent Joakim Soria at the end of July to the Detroit Tigers for Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson.
Rodney is a lot better than Soria, so he could probably fetch more than that in theory. Even though the concept of the save is a pretty over-valued statistic, it is one that most front offices still place a lot of value (aka money) in. Here is a list of the top-10 closers last year in saves.
|name||team||age||# of saves||WAR||salary|
|Fernando Rodney||Mariners||37||48||1.2||7 mil|
|Craig Kimbrel||Braves||26||47||2.2||7 mil|
|Greg Holland||Royals||28||46||2.3||4.675 mil|
|Kenley Jansen||Dodgers||22||44||2.0||4.3 mil|
|Francisco Rodriguez||Brewers||32||44||-0.6||3.25 mil|
|Huston Street||Padres/Angels||31||41||2.0||3.8 mil|
|Jonathan Papelbon||Phillies||33||39||1.7||13 mil|
|David Robertson||Yankees||29||39||1.7||5.215 mil|
Two things stand out from that chart. First off, Rodney is an old fart in his field. Second off, he isn't particularly cheap either. As it stands heading into 2015, Rodney is tied with Street as the sixth most expensive closer in baseball. If you include a couple of ex-closers salaries (Jonathan Broxton and Brian Wilson), Rodney is tied for the seventh most expensive reliever in baseball.
That is two knocks right there. Rodney most likely has a couple of years left in the tank, but probably not too many more than that. Take the age and combine it with his salary and he becomes harder to move. But the biggest issue facing Rodney's value as a trade asset is that the market for teams in need of closers isn't necessarily too high. The Blue Jays, Tigers, Brewers, Rays and Dodgers (because why not they love to buy all players) need some bullpen attention this offseason.
The Tigers, despite the meltdown towards the end of the second-half, are committed to trotting Joe Nathan out there again. The Blue Jays will need help, but cheaper options like a resurgent Francisco Rodriguez exist. Realisitcally, there are enough options available on the free-agent market and not enough teams in search of help that Rodney's value goes down the tube.
The final nail in the coffin is that the Mariners are in competing mode, and the front office has reiterated its stance on increasing payroll for next season multiple times. It just doesn't make any sense to let Rodney go. Unless the Mariners fall so far out of favor by the time the trade deadline rolls around next season, it'll be another full tank for the FRE and we will once again be riding in the passenger seat like a parent teaching his/her 15-year-old how to drive.