As free agent signings go, Francisco Rodriguez wasn’t a bad one for the Mets.
Sure, he had the incident last season with his girlfriend’s father, but even that worked out well for the club. K-Rod received the proper counseling, the Mets were off the hook for the rest of his 2010 salary and he came as a model citizen this year.
Oliver Perez, K-Rod was not.
But the fact is the Mets needed to trade their now erstwhile closer. With $17 million looming in 2012 and Scott Boras wringing his hands in the background, Sandy Alderson needed to ship his closer away for any price and as quickly as he could.
Boras could have made the Mets life miserable over the next few weeks. Already he boasted Rodriguez wasn’t going to be a set-up man and would be “unhappy” in the clubhouse if he didn’t get the ball in the ninth.
Enter Milwaukee, who is tied in the Central with the Cardinals using John Axford who is 23 out of 25 as their closer. With 23 saves on the season, manager Ron Roenicke can use both pitchers in the ninth as he sees fit or just use K-Rod in the eight. With 34 games finished so far, Rodriguez probably won’t get to the vesting option of 55 games.
So this trade needed to be made. The Mets will get back two player yet to be named, but it doesn’t matter if they are Rickie Weekes and Prince Fielder or two A-Ball relievers, as the deal is about the addition losing K-Rod brings to the Mets.
“We thank Frankie for his contributions to the Mets and wish him well with the Brewers,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief, as well.”
Now the club can see if Bobby Parnell or even Pedro Beato are the answers at closer, or does the team have to look elsewhere next year. By giving their young pitchers a chance in the ninth this season with only an outside shot to contend, the Mets will avoid an Aaron Heilman situation where a good reliever melted as a closer when forced into the pennant race.
More importantly, though, losing Rodriguez give the Mets a much better chance of keeping Jose Reyes. Without K-Rod’s albatross option looming, the club have some cost certainty when it comes to 2012. After Carlos Beltran walks or even gets traded, Alderson will have around $55 million coming off the books, not including Reyes’s $11 million. That means there may be some wriggle room to pay the shortstop in the high teens to low $20 million range in the off-season, while dropping the payroll to a more comfortable level for the Wilpons.
This is exactly what the Wilpons hired Alderson to do. He’s cleaning up Omar Minaya’s mess. Beltran will probably be the next to go – more than likely when David Wright and/or Ike Davis come off the disabled list at the end of the month – and heck, if some insane team wants to take Jason Bay off his hands, Alderson will more than likely drive the left fielder to the airport himself.
So sure the Mets lost a closer last night, but as trade go, this is a good one.