The news broke on Friday that the Brewers had once again signed up Francisco Rodriguez to pitch out of their bullpen. The deal, first reported by Chris Cotillo, is for one year. Adam McCalvy then reported that the base salary would be 3.25 million and that the deal could increase to 3.80 if he hits all of the possible incentives.
There has been quite a bit of angst over the deal on twitter, and much of it centers on the money. In total dollars, it is the 23rd largest deal for a relief pitcher of the off-season to date. Just for perspective, consider that former Brewers Manny Parra (Reds) and John Axford (Indians) both got more. Looking at the list of pitchers still on the market (see last link), he’ll probably end up moving down at least a few spots by the time it’s all said and done. It’s generally not a good idea to spend big on relievers, but this doesn’t really qualify as “big money.” It’s a one-year deal and it’s hard to see the 3.25 million dollars keeping them from making any moves they may end up wanting to make down the line.
The other directly baseball-related issue often brought up when it comes to K-Rod is his supposed declining performance. A lot of the concern on that front probably stems from the fact that the Brewers had him in 2012 for what was, by far, his worst professional season to date. He rebounded pretty nicely last year in Milwaukee, though, posting a 1.09 ERA over 24 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate and walk rate actually improved from solid to outstanding after being traded to Baltimore, but alas, his hit luck ran out and his ERA shot up to 4.50.
Overall in 2013, his strikeout percentage of 28.0% was well above the RP league average of 21.7% and his walk rate of 7.3% was solidly under the league mark of 8.9%. His homerun rate is always going to be on the high side, because, when he does miss in the zone, he doesn’t have the huge velocity to get away with it. That’s not a good thing, but it’s also doesn’t erase all of the value created by his strikeout to walk numbers. It’s also worth noting that his velocity hasn’t been going down, as he’s spent the last four years hovering right around 91 MPH on average. His 2013 average FB was actually faster (91.4) than it was in 2010 (91.1), so it’s hard to make a case that he’s in serious physical decline.
His pitching style can be somewhere between nerve wracking and infuriating to watch when he’s off, because he does nibble and work a lot of deep counts. He also has well documented off-the-field issues, which don’t tend to endear him to people personally. I certainly can’t tell anyone that they should be happy about bringing in Francisco Rodriguez the person, because the things he’s been accused of are seriously reprehensible. Purely as a baseball move, though, there really isn’t anything wrong here.
Brewers connected to major Dominican prospect
Kiley McDaniel of scout.com had a very interesting nugget (click for video) in his post about his scouting trip to the Dominican Republic last month:
Gilbert Lara has the loose, handsy, fluid swing that scouts are looking for with the plus bat speed and raw power to project as a future All-Star. He hit a number of balls out to left field at the heavily scouted MLB showcase and hit a triple and homerun in the game portion of the event. The chatter among scouts is the Dominican third baseman has an agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers for a $3.2 million bonus.
If this happens, it would be something of a game-changer for the Brewers international efforts. After years of neglect in Latin America, the last few years have seen the team ramp up their efforts there. First, they opened a new facility in late 2011, and then they made some significant changes to their scouting department. Last summer they made strides, giving out their largest bonus since 2005 to outfielder Nicolas Pierre. There was some hope that they were using it as a springboard to getting involved with the true top of the market talents this year, and Lara would definitely qualify on that count.
If the Brewers really do sign Lara for something like 3.2 million, there is a pretty good chance that they will have to go over their allotted “international bonus pool” to do so. The Brewers finished 11th in the reverse order standings last year after tiebreakers are applied, and last year that slot was given 2.58 million in international money to work with. Even if the numbers go up, it’s hard to imagine them going up enough for the Brewer to sign Lara and some other players under the cap. That leaves the team with two options:
- They can attempt to trade for extra slot money, though they can only add 50% of their allotment in trade, so that probably caps them somewhere around 4 million dollars, give or take.
- They can just disregard the limit and then pay a heavy penalty tax on the overage and lose some flexibility in the market the following year.
Whatever they do, and almost regardless of whether or not they actually do end up signing Lara or not, this is a clear sign that the Brewers are making a major move in the international market. If they whiff on him, they’ll almost certainly just move on to other players either this year or next and try again. Teams that build a reputation for spending money in places like the Dominican Republic tend to have doors open up for them and it becomes easier and easier to get the next guy once a team shows they’re serious.
I mentioned last week that the Brewers seemed to be on the right track in Latin America. The team desperately needs high ceiling prospects, and this is one of the best ways open to them to add those types of talents if they’re not going to draft in the top 10. Only time will tell if this ends up working out for them, but it’s most definitely a step in the right direction.