Aug 24, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (57) reacts after striking out Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) to end the game at Miller Park. Rodriguez picked up a save as the Brewers beat the Pirates 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to relievers this offseason, I keep hearing names like David Robertson, Sergio Romo, and Rafael Soriano get tossed out there as being the top targets for teams. I’ve even heard people talk about set-up guys like Luke Gregerson, Jason Grilli, and Pat Neshek. One big name being over-looked is Francisco Rodriguez, and he’s actually a cheap option.
Yes, I know we are well past 2008, when K-Rod set the Single Season Saves Record of 62 Saves in 76 games for the Angels. I can go on about that season and his stats forever, but the fact is that season was 6 years ago. What people might forget is K-Rod wasn’t a one-hit wonder in 2008, he’s just been on the Mets, Brewers, Orioles, and Brewers again since then. Those teams are a lot like in the Astros, where they don’t garner much media attention.
If K-Rod was on the Yankees or Red Sox, he would be one of the top names on the market. Fortunately for the Astros, that mean he’ll still be cheap like the last few seasons. His last contract was for $3.25 million plus $550,000 based on incentives. His contract before that was minor league deal! Offer him a $5-6 million contract, plus incentives and he’ll be wearing an Astros uniform. You could even throw in a club-option for 2016. Sign him now while all the attention is on the other relievers in the market.
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K-Rod is 10th all time in Saves, and he could eventually get into the Top 5. The 32-year-old was an All-Star last season for the 5th time, and recorded 44 Saves in 49 attempts. Quite simply, he has been a factor at the backend of the bullpen on whichever team he’s on. Whether it was saving games, or setting up for John Axford in Milwaukee, he’s been consistent over his career. And that is why the Astros need K-Rod more than any other reliever on the market.
Over the past two seasons, the Astros have blown 55 games in 118 opportunities, more than any other team in baseball; 26 in 2014, and 29 in 2013. That means 46.61% of the time, when the game was on the line in the later innings, they blew it. You could have flipped a coin to determine whether the Astros would hold on or not the past two seasons and you would have been pretty close to the actual result. The league average for 2014 was 18 Blown Saves and a 69.31 Save Percentage. If the Astros bullpen was just average in 2014, you could have added 8 more wins to their total last season. That means that 70-92 record would have been a 78-84 record, with an AVERAGE bullpen.
If the Astros are to seriously turn the corner next season and become potential playoff contenders, they need a real closer. Imagine K-Rod closing games in an Astros uniform after the starters last 6-7 innings with veterans like Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp setting up the game for him. The Astros will then finally have their first lockdown closer since Jose Valverde in 2008, when the Astros last had a winning season. K-Rod can not only help fortify the bullpen, he could serve as a mentor for the young guys expected to hold that bullpen when the Astros are serious contenders. There might not be a better reliever to bring in to help teach them on how to stay calm in tough situations for years to come.