Since starting this website, and since I’ve interacted with people on Facebook and Twitter, there’s no doubt that there is a substantial philosophical divide between people who are into advanced stats, and people who subscribe to more traditional philosophies. Players like Fernando Rodney are the human embodiment of the line of demarcation in many cases, as Rodney, while a good player, isn’t a perfect fit for the Mariners at two years, $14 million, tying him with Hisashi Iwakuma as the team’s third highest-paid player.
It’s not that the Mariners have a great bullpen – in fact, they actually had about a league-average bullpen that was hurt last year by poor outfield defense – but that the team has larger needs than bullpen help, and a pitcher in Danny Farquhar that showed some signs that he could be a very good closer. In the case of the Willie Bloomquist signing, I said that the stakes of the signing should be considered when quantifying frustration. Bloomquist won’t make or break the 2014 or 2015 Seattle Mariners, at least not in all likelihood. That doesn’t mean that his presence adds value to the team, and it especially doesn’t add enough value, again in all likelihood, to justify the contract paid to him.
Rodney’s contract is pretty similar. He’s been pretty good in the past two seasons after being mostly not very good for most of his career. In 2012 he had a substantial drop in walks paired with a lucky 89.4 percent of runners left on base that led to a 0.60 ERA. It wasn’t empty success though, his FIP was 2.13 and his xFIP, which I prefer, was 2.67. Last year’s iteration of Rodney saw a substantial uptick in strikeout rate, albeit adjacent to return to his old high-walk-rate self, and a return to earth in terms of LOB%.
Fernando Rodney is 36 years old, but he’s a 36-year-old that averaged 96.5 MPH on his fastball last year, and threw his change-up a little over one-third of his pitches. For what it’s worth, Rodney has decent platoon splits, and can be effective against lefties. He also doesn’t throw a ton of fly balls, which may help him compared to members of last year’s Mariners bullpen.
There’s good reason to believe that Rodney will be successful through his entire contract with the Mariners. There’s no guarantee, but there’s reason. Good reason. And he tilts his hat on the mound. Kind of like Felix Hernandez. So there’s that.
The problem isn’t necessarily with Rodney himself, and the contract he received is something close to what we’d expect market value to be. The problem is that the Mariners were ostensibly in the market for a top-end free agent closer to being with.
Danny Farquhar is good, and the team has at least one defensive hole in the outfield. The team has a hole in their rotation, maybe two depending on what you expect from Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in 2014.
If this is the last $14 million the Mariners spent this offseason, it will be a mistake. The Mariners have bigger fish to fry, and can’t expect Robinson Cano to equate to a 25 win swing. No matter how good Rodney is, he won’t make up much of the difference either.
If the Mariners add another starter, or add some young, controllable outfield talent (read: not Nelson Cruz) without gutting the farm system, this move could make some sense. If this is a cherry on top, it’s on top of what appears to remain a pretty average cake.