The big news in the Milwaukee Brewers universe this week was the resigning of Francisco Rodriguez to a one-year contract.
This move isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it is somewhat interesting because the Brewers traded “K-Rod” to the Baltimore Orioles for Nick Delmonico last year in July.
To be completely honest, I am and have been one of the biggest critics of Francisco Rodriguez. That said, even I can’t deny the fact that K-Rod is an upgrade to the existing Brewers relief pitching lineup.
Barring a disappointing season out of Jim Henderson, Francisco Rodriguez will most likely retake his old spot as a relief pitcher in the Brewers pitching staff. Although at times over his three year Brewer career Rodriguez was frustratingly ineffective, he was still one of the better pitchers on the roster (at a spry 31 years old.) This move helps the Brewers more than it hurts them, in my opinion.
Last year in a total of 48 games Rodriguez had a .270 ERA and went 2-1. As a relief pitcher his win loss total probably doesn’t matter all that much, but it is refreshing to think that the Brewers will be able to hold on to early leads this season. It doesn’t matter how good of a closer the Brewers have if the relief pitching can’t hold a lead into the eighth and ninth innings.
Relief pitching will be especially important in Milwaukee this year, because the Brewers lost a lot of offensive talent in the departures of Norichika Aoki and Corey Hart.
The starting pitching rotation received a huge upgrade with the recent signing of Matt Garza, but the trio of Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Garza aren’t exactly in their peak years and I can’t imagine any of them taking games into the later innings consistently (not because of poor play but because of endurance.)
I believe that Jim Henderson will be an above average closer for the Brewers this year. He had 28 saves last year in his second year in the MLB and there is no reason to think that he will drop off this year (although it is comforting to think that if he does K-Rod could conceivably take the closer role, just like he did when Axford was struggling) he just needs to be put into situations where he can save a game.
The Brewers are very close to having a respectable team again, in my opinion. If K-Rod can find some of his old spark, and if the offense is able to produce, the Brewers could very well compete in the NL Central again.
However, if he can’t play at a high level or the Brewers struggle again this year, I can’t imagine Rodriguez staying in Milwaukee for too long. At the very least, the Brewers could probably convince a borderline playoff team to pick up his contract in exchange for a minor league player.
Yes, Francisco is at the end of his career and he struggled when he played for Baltimore last year, but right now I would rather have K-Rod pitching in a one run ball game in the seventh inning than most of the other Brewers relief pitchers.