Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Savings in Mind, Mets Deal Rodriguez to Brewers

From the day he was hired last October until his most recent meeting with reporters on Sunday, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson was asked what he would do about Francisco Rodriguez and his prohibitive vesting option for 2012.
For a team with significant financial difficulties, finding a way to unload Rodriguez, the volatile closer who was arrested last summer for assaulting the grandfather of his children, was a vexing problem.
But somehow Alderson figured it out. He traded Rodriguez and a substantial amount of cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be named later, thus unburdening the Mets from what could have been a crippling financial obligation for next year.
The deal was completed Tuesday, but the Mets could not announce it until after the All-Star Game. Alderson released a brief statement after midnight.
“This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief as well,” Alderson said.
The Mets (46-45) can now try to develop the hard-throwing Bobby Parnell into a closer of the future, but they also may turn to Jason Isringhausen, who has 293 saves in his career and 11 more in the postseason.
Much depends on whether Alderson considers this the first of many trades, or if he still holds hope that the Mets can compete for a playoff spot in 2011.
Carlos Bletran is in the final year of his contract and Alderson will at least explore possible trades for him. Beltran, who played in Tuesday’s All-Star Game and is leading the Mets in home runs, doubles and runs batted in, has made it clear he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a winning team.
Jose Reyes is also in the final year of his contract, but Alderson has already said he considers it unlikely that he would trade Reyes, who is having a most-valuable-player-type season.
After a dismal start, the Mets have showed signs of progress, but they remain 11 games out of first place in the National League East, and 7 ½ games out of the wild-card race. Even if they were within a game of first place, Alderson might still have traded Rodriguez because his contract option — a $17.5 million option for 2012 that automatically vests if he finishes 55 games — would have made next year’s payroll so unbalanced.
Rodriguez, 29, has a little more than $5 million remaining on his contract for this season, and he has already finished 34 games — leaving him on pace for over 60.
If the option does not vest, Rodriguez’s contract calls for a $3.5 million buyout. The Mets knew they would be paying that no matter what, so it is likely they would send at least that amount, and probably more, to the Brewers.
Rodriguez, who recently hired the agent Scott Boras to represent him, could agree to waive the option for a contract extension with the Brewers, or negotiate a buyout.
The Brewers have a solid closer in John Axford, who has 23 saves in 25 opportunities. That could mean Rodriguez will serve as a set-up man, which would limit his ability to get 21 more games finished. Still, the Brewers felt the deal made sense.
“That’s awesome,” the Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder said in Phoenix after the All-Star Game when he heard about the trade. “That’s a big trade; he can really help us. He’s a great player. It definitely gives us a spark.
“We’re in first place now, and getting him gives us a little more help. He’s definitely gonna bring the success he’s had in his career and that confidence to the team. He’s gonna keep doing what he’s doing. You can’t go wrong getting that kind of talent.”
A year ago, Rodriguez ran into problems with the Mets’ coaching staff over his usage. He complained when he did not finish certain games, and at one point got into a physical altercation in the bullpen with the mild-mannered bullpen coach Randy Niemann over how he was being used.
Then, in August, he was arrested for attacking the grandfather of his children at Citi Field. He agreed to undergo court-monitored anger management therapy, which seemed to have a positive affect, and he had no reported incidents this year.
Rodriguez takes a 2-2 record and a 3.16 earned run average and 23 saves in 26 opportunities to Milwaukee. Since joining the Mets in 2009, Rodriguez is 9-10 with a 3.05 E.R.A. and 83 saves in 165 games. In 2008, his last year with the Los Angeles Angels, he had a record 62 saves.

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