Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brewers Trade for K-Rod

Sabathia. Greinke. Rodriguez. In the latest in a string of bold trades, GM Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on a deal that sent two minor leaguers to be named later for Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez along with his remaining salary, shortly after the All-Star Game on Tuesday. In his career, Frankie is 32-27 with a 2.54 ERA and 291 saves. Despite supposedly being in decline, he has already logged 23 saves and is currently 2nd in the league in strikeouts per 9 innings.

The main thing to take out of this trade is that the Brewers front office is again going all-in as they did in 2008, when they acquired CC Sabathia at the trade deadline en route to their first playoff appearance in 26 years. This trade proves that the Brewers are willing to do what it takes because they believe they have a shot this year to not only make the playoffs, but to win the division and make it out of the first round. A lot of teams would have been scared off by K-Rod's $17.5 million option that vests if he finishes 55 games this year, but the Brewers are going with the "win now" mentality. With weaker teams in St. Louis and Cincinnati (thus far) and atrocious teams in Chicago and Houston, the Brewers currently tied for first, and Prince Fielder likely gone after the season, the division is prime for the taking and the time is now.

A lot is being made of this vesting option of K-Rod's, and how it will affect current closer John Axford who is having a phenomenal season. I am concerned a little bit on how it will affect Ax mentally, if he will put too much pressure on himself to be "the guy," but I think Roenicke's relationship with his players - including being a coach for Anaheim for 7 years while they had K-Rod - will help that transition. Axford knows deep down that this team just got a whole lot better and he has to play the role he's asked to to help the team win. The Twins did the same thing last year when Jon Rauch was having a great first full season as a closer, and they brought in Brian Fuentes and Matt Capps as insurance. In this scenario Rauch went back to his old role as set-up guy and the Twins ended up winning the AL Central. As for the Brewers, only time will tell how the 9th inning will be split, but one thing is for certain - the Brewers are not dumb enough and do not have the money to allow K-Rod to finish another 21 games this season to kick in his option for 2012. Besides the Brewers' payroll restrictions, K-Rod just isn't worth that much money anymore. Even though Melvin and Roenicke have been quoted as saying that Ax and K-Rod will split closing duty, I think that was just the PC thing to say. I think you'll still see Ax still get the majority of the save chances, but the idea is that if you have an opportunity to pick up the all-time single season saves leader for practically nothing, you do it. Prior to this trade, the Brewers' 8th inning options were a former starter, a guy with sleep disorder, a guy already nearing 50 appearances, and two 40-ish relievers with recent injuries. Things just got a whole lot more stable in the back end of the Brewers' bullpen. Assuming Greinke and Marcum can get back to their June form (and that the Pirates remember that they're the Pirates), I don't see any reason why this team will not run away with the NL Central.

Brewers 49-43, -- (4 @ Rockies, 4 @ Diamondbacks, 3 @ Giants)
Reds 45-47, -4.0 (3 v. Cardinals, 3 @ Pirates, 3 v. Braves)
Twins 41-48, -6.5 (4 v. Royals, 4 v. Indians, 4 v. Tigers)

Erik - 10
Peter - 28

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