Fantasy Baseball

2016 Fantasy Baseball: Detroit Tigers Acquire Francisco Rodriguez

The Detroit Tigers went from first to worst in 2015. Whenever that happens, you can usually blame injuries and a bad bullpen. They certainly had their fair share of both as both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez went down for stretches last season. However, the bullpen was also a considerable factor as well. Dave Dombrowski traded Joakim Soria (currently a free agent) before the deadline and handed over the keys to the kingdom to Bruce Rondon. Manager Brad Ausmus dispatched Rondon home before the season even ended.

New general manager Al Avila addressed that situation this past weekend by dealing minor league infielder Javier Betancourt and a player to be named later for veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez. Anyone that pays attention to these things knows that players to be named later are often more significant than the players listed, but without knowing the player involved, it is a puzzling move to be sure.

Why the Tigers do this deal

This is pretty simple. The Tigers still have a number of pieces that will allow them to compete in the American League Central. Miguel Cabrera is still one of the top three or four position players in the American League and J.D. Martinez is one of the best young hitters in the game. Throw in the likes of Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez and you can see why the Tigers still think they have a shot at making a playoff run. You don’t make a playoff run without a bullpen. Going into the 2016 season with Bruce Rondon as your closer just wasn’t palatable. Enter KRod.

Rodriguez has seven seasons with 30 or more saves and will surpass 400 career saves if healthy. It’s hard to make any kind of Hall of Fame pronouncements for relief pitchers. There are some closers with 500 or more saves that might not make it in. Still, you have to imagine there will be a conversation some day when KRod hangs it up. At this point in his career, he isn’t the dominant guy he was when he came up, but he is a professional and he’ll hold down the fort for at least a season until the Tigers find a suitable long term answer.

Giving up the likes of Betancourt seems like a paltry price to pay for Rodriguez’s services. Betancourt did not rank among the Tigers top 30 prospects and we are talking about a system that isn’t exactly brimming with talent. Betancourt was an international prospect and as such got started at an earlier age. Youth seems to be his best tool at this point. He’s played all three infield positions (minus first base) and is seemingly a good fielding prospect. Unfortunately, he has shown little in terms of offensive potential.

There are still rules in place as they regard players to be named later. It’s hard to say what strings have been attached to that. Sometimes, it involves a player that hasn’t been in the system long enough, but MLB has changed some rules around recent draftees to make that possibility seem less likely. Sometimes, they are tied to health or performance. If that’s the case then it could be a list of players if healthy and productive and a list of players if unhealthy and unproductive. That will take a lot of time to work itself out. At this juncture, it looks like the Tigers got a steal, but the jury is still out.

Why the Brewers do this deal

David Stearns comes from the Astros and was a part of their scorched earth rebuilding project. The difference in Houston is that the Astros were willing to pay some extra cash to get some extra prospects when they dealt their veterans. Obviously, we need to see who the player to be named later is, but otherwise this was a very underwhelming package for an effective closer. The Brewers are out from underneath Rodriguez’s contract and I suppose that is something in this day and age where teams are usually unwilling to take on an entire contract.

One of the other considerations was the depth in the Brewers bullpen. Even after they traded Jonathan Broxton before the trade deadline, the Brewers had five other relievers with ERAs of 3.26 or better. Of the group Jeremy Jeffress or Will Smith would seem to be the most likely to take over as the closer. Both are cheaper options than Rodriguez. It would appear that an expensive closer on a last place team makes about as much sense as a Bose stereo system in a 1974 Chevy Chavelle. Still, unless the player to be named later is significantly better than Betancourt, you have to think that Stearns didn’t quite get bang for his buck.

What this means for you

The closer fraternity is obviously a finite fraternity. There are only 30 jobs available at any one time. Certainly, there will be teams that use multiple closers during the season because of injuries or ineffectiveness, but otherwise there is always a limited supply. So, it isn’t that this trade increases the pool of closers so much as it improves it. Bruce Rondon would have been a part of that list. Now, you get to include either Jeremy Jeffress or Will Smith. I think we can consider that an improvement.

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