Fernando Rodney: Proven Closer, Somehow
Fernando Rodney is 36 years old. That might surprise you, in either way. He might be older than you thought, because it’s really only been recently that he’s been any good. Or he might be younger than you thought, because you can’t really remember baseball before Fernando Rodney, because baseball always has dozens of pitchers like Fernando Rodney at any one given moment. Rodney built a whole career on being a reliever with an electric arm and potential. Then he built a new career. A career where he’s more than Mike MacDougal.
Rodney debuted in 2002 and for a decade, for literally a decade, he was hard-throwing and mediocre. His strikeouts wouldn’t match his velocity. His walks would, and then some. That whole decade, he was worth about 2.5 wins, according to his FanGraphs page. Last year Mark Melancon alone was worth 2.5 wins. In 2011 Rodney was a wreck for the Angels, and he barely pitched in September. It looked like it could be the end of the line, if a reliever ever hits the end of the line when he throws 96. The Rays scooped Rodney up and he set a new all-time ERA record. In the low way, not the way you might’ve expected Rodney to do it. Rodney was worse last season, but he was simultaneously worse and good.
Rodney was always a guy with a live arm and promise. He figured things out at 35. Rodney’s why teams still give those guys chances. And Rodney’s a Mariner, now, for two years and $14 million, or $15 million, if he’s healthy and great. The Mariners were first linked to Rodney some months ago, and it seemed inevitable they’d throw money at some kind of veteran for bullpen work. Rumors died down until they burst back to life. Rodney’s the new guy, and he’s the new closer.
Which is a bummer for Danny Farquhar, and which is kind of a bummer for us, because I think we’re all pretty big Danny Farquhar fans. We know we have the numbers on our side, and there’s reason to believe that Farquhar’s the superior reliever. Ideally, your closer would be your best guy, and your setup guy would be your second-best guy, and so on down the chain. If Farquhar’s better than Rodney, it’s weird to have Rodney as the closer. But more important than having guys in the right order is having the right guys, and closer be damned, the Mariners needed bullpen help. It was awful flimsy behind Farquhar and Charlie Furbush, and while Rodney’s no sure thing, he’s what Yoervis Medina wishes he were. Rodney solidifies the unit, probably, and given that the Mariners are in the business of trying to contend, Rodney does positive things for their playoff odds.
At the appropriate cost. The Mariners sure as shoot aren’t paying Rodney to repeat his historic 2012, because that would be all but unrepeatable. They’re really just paying him to be a good reliever, and he’s coming off a couple good seasons, and it’s not like any other resources have been sacrificed. Rodney costs two years of money, then he’s gone and remembered in some way, to be determined.
Lots of people have been talking about the M’s signing Nelson Cruz. The M’s themselves have been talking about the M’s signing Nelson Cruz, even publicly, on the record. It’s feeling like a thing that’s going to happen. I can already sense myself working to get over it. I will have already been through all the stages by the time the news initially hits. Cruz is perceived as a major splash, but after looking at all the numbers, you could make the argument that Rodney’s the bigger improvement for this team. Maybe just equivalent, but Cruz is overrated by many, and Rodney is underrated by some, and this contract is probably better than that contract would or will be. Cruz wouldn’t mean nothing, but Rodney addresses an area of quiet concern. During the season, it wouldn’t have been so quiet.
Oh, it’s beyond easy to envision Rodney coming apart and turning into what Yoervis Medina actually is. It’s easy to envision Rodney turning into a guy we never want to see on the mound in a game closer than six. That’s something Rodney already was, for a long time, and now he’s older and not pitching to Jose Molina, and even a good version of Rodney puts people with weak hearts in hospitals. Rodney’s never going to feel safe, and as he shoots his celebratory arrow, it’ll be accompanied by the sound of some tens of thousands of people finally breathing. It’ll sound like an actual arrow in flight. Prepare yourself for even the good outcome to be mildly traumatizing.
But Rodney can be good because he’s been good recently, and we want the Mariners to have more talent on the roster, and I’m excited to have a closer with a little ego and personality. Farquhar’s too nice. Wilhelmsen’s too uncertain and spacy. I guess Brandon League had a little ego and personality but he was a moron. I don’t even remember what David Aardsma was like. I very much enjoyed the J.J. Putz era. The Mariners’ new closer has a choreographed save celebration. He also wears his hat in such a way that from the back you can’t tell where he’s looking. One thing Fernando Rodney isn’t is forgettable.
It’s not a great move by the Mariners, but it’s not a bad move by them, either, and the team’s better now than it was. I might usually want more, but I’ll take this. I’m actually pretty easy to please. Decisions in the past have caused me to forget that. But I’m a fairly positive guy. This, this right here — this is fine.