Francisco Rodriguez fits the Detroit Tigers more so than any other team. The 33-year-old reliever remains unsigned as Spring Training nears. Simultaneously, the Tigers have shockingly failed to address its dire bullpen needs. Rodriguez landing in Detroit is a perfect marriage that makes complete sense.
With the season so close, K-Rod will probably accept a modest one-year deal. He’s obviously not highly coveted and his leverage is minimal. Joining a contender in Detroit would almost surely be appealing.
To be blunt about the Tigers as a team, its window is closing. Accounting for Justin Verlander‘s unpredictability, Max Scherzer‘s absence and Victor Martinez‘s injury, the Tigers already have enough problems. Why continue to allow a below average crop of relievers to plague the organization?
Rodriguez is no longer the lights-out madman he was with the Los Angeles Angels. But he is still an extremely reliable reliever with many positive trends. He saved 44 games in 2014 for the Milwaukee Brewers. His WHIP was 0.99 and opponents only batted .198 against him. His 91 mph fastball regularity shouldn’t be worrisome considering the prowess of his changeup.
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There’s a case to be made that Rodriguez would instantly become Detroit’s top reliever. He’s an unequivocally better closing option than Joe Nathan, 2014’s nightmarish late-game selection who posted a 4.81 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Nathan is also 40-years-old. Joakim Soria is a bounce back candidate and Al Alburquerque is underrated, but depth and dominance sorely lack within this bullpen group. Even Joba Chamberlain is no longer there. He held the second best ERA (3.57) of any Tiger reliever in 2014.
K-Rod might not dominate oppositions. He might not be the perfect closer. But he’s a sensible fit at a reasonable price. Detroit shouldn’t sleep on K-Rod. They shouldn’t allow another season to be lost due to a prevailing bullpen breakdown. This would be a predictable error in judgment.
Rodriguez provides depth and experience at the minimum. There’s no reason to think he can’t top 60 appearances and come close to matching 2014’s 9.66 K/9 rate. If he fails to touch acceptable numbers, at least Detroit made an effort to fix this weakness. David Robertson and Andrew Miller were too expensive, sure, but why pass on giving Rodriguez a one-year deal?
In a sense, Detroit’s offseason has been maddening even to non-fans of the franchise. Sergio Romo and Jason Grilli were available. The same can be said about Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. Even Jason Motte was there as a buy-low option. The best remaining unsigned relievers are now likely Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano.
If the Tigers fail to sign Rodriguez given his quality 2014 run and clear upgrade at closer over Nathan, they’ll undoubtedly regret it. The AL Central includes the defending AL Champions in the Kansas City Royals. Additionally, the Chicago White Sox have immensely improved on paper, while the Cleveland Indians nearly made the playoffs last year. It’s a stacked division full of quality clubs.
Detroit knows its bullpen is not high quality, yet no significant changes have been made. Aside from the Tom Gorzelanny addition and Soria’s option being picked up, no substantially impactful relievers have been brought in. At least one stands as available, though, and he’s not hard to find. His name is Francisco Rodriguez and he’s waiting for a team to find its sense of logic. Detroit, the ball is in your court.