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How will the Mets handle Francisco Rodriguez this season?

Feb 5, 2011, 6:30 PM EDT

Francisco Rodriguez

We’re probably getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with this topic, but it’s a worthwhile discussion on a slow news day.

The Mets will get plenty of payroll relief when Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo come off the books after this season, but the status of Francisco Rodriguez could be much trickier. His $17.5 million option for 2012 will vest if he finishes just 55 games in 2011.

While last season was the first time since 2005 that Rodriguez didn’t finish 55 games, he almost certainly would have gotten there if it wasn’t for the incident with his father-in-law and subsequent season-ending thumb surgery. With a 2.20 ERA and his best strikeout rate since 2007, K-Rod was pitching quite well at the time. He was at 46 games finished when he played his last game on August 14.

The union filed a grievance against the Mets after they placed Rodriguez on the disqualified list without pay. The two sides eventually reached a settlement where the Mets were allowed to keep the $3.14 million they would have otherwise paid him for the rest of the season. The Mets originally saw his thumb injury as an opportunity to void his entire contract, so I can’t help but view their efforts in a new light given what we’ve learned about the Wilpons in the past week.

I’m not sure if Rodriguez’s contract situation will affect the way the Mets use him this season, but Sandy Alderson doesn’t seem like the type of general manager who would want a $17.5 million closer on his payroll in the first place. This could open the door for the Mets to possibly use him in unconventional ways, perhaps as a “relief ace,” as opposed to your atypical closer, but they will have to be careful. With the Mets on shaky financial ground, you can bet that the MLBPA will be on the lookout for any funny business.

  1. drunkenhooliganism - Feb 5, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    I guess it would be unethical for the Wilpons to ask Rodriguez to be used as a multi-inning closer in the hopes that he blows his arm out

    • D.J. Short - Feb 5, 2011 at 6:50 PM

      Right. He’d actually be a perfect fifth starter!

      • Old Gator - Feb 5, 2011 at 7:00 PM

        They could invite his father in law to come back as a bench coach and hope Rodriguez goes postal on him again. Then, having learned their lesson from the way they screwed up their first attempt to shelve the crackpot, they could suspend him immediately this time.

  2. xmatt0926x - Feb 5, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    He’ll get his 55 finishes unless he gets injured. The players union will be all over them if they try to hold him back. They have enough legal issues as it is.

  3. andrewkw - Feb 5, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    Maybe they will end up playing a bunch more 20 inning games and can warm him up 7 or 8 times a game and wear him out that way.

  4. dirtyharry1971 - Feb 6, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Typical mets loser, trust me the mets deserve this guy and so do all low life met fans. 1986!! hahaha

    • Old Gator - Feb 6, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      D J, isn’t there a minimum age requirement for posting here?

  5. henryd3rd - Feb 6, 2011 at 5:09 AM

    Its Superbowl Weekend Who cares about the Mets? Can Sandy Alderson get a do over?

  6. mrznyc - Feb 6, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Who is it who thinks the Mets are going to be within 5 runs of anyone in any 9th inning this coming season? This season is going to be a complete loss with the only news being the Wilpons coming fire sale and then we’ll see what happens with the Metsies.

  7. detiger69 - Feb 6, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    This isn’t too tough of a problem to solve, simple have a contending team follow the off-season trend of putting a proven closer in the 8th inning role. We have seen the Red Soxs (Jenks), Yankees (Soriano), A’s (Fuentes), Cubs (Wood), and Blue Jays (some combination of Dotel, Francisco, and Rauch) all do this. Add in the Twins getting Nathan back to pair with Capps, and most of your contenders in the AL are doubled up.
    One possibility, maybe Texas realizes they need to follow suit. They have Michael Young at a similar salary as Rodriguez and the Mets will need a new middle infield for 2012 – Jose Reyes is also coming off the books as a free agent. Rodriguez goes to Texas to pitch the 8th inning, thus preventing his contract from vesting. The Mets begin to rebuild their infield with a proven gold glove, excellent hitting, and get a modest savings in salary. The players union can’t say a word about Rodriguez missing out on his vesting option with the precedent being set for closers in the 8th. It seems a win – win for Texas and New York.

    • Kevin S. - Feb 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

      The Mets aren’t going to take on the $32 million Young’s owed for 2012-13. I do think that the best bet is to ship him and $10 million to a team with an established closer for a C-prospect. Mets still save $22.5 million over the next two years, [contender] gets a relief ace on favorable terms.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

        If the Mets really want to save some money they can unload Santana. If they are willing to pickup say $25M of the remaining $100M on Santana’s contract they can probably ship him cross town to the Bronx. The Yankees would probably be very interested in that deal. After all it’s not like the Mets are going to compete for anything for the next couple of years. If the Mets were willing to pick up say the $25M the Yankees could probably be persuaded to part with some combination of Austin Romine, David Phelps and last but not least Sergio Mitre. Just thinking out loud.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 6, 2011 at 11:12 AM

        Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d want Santana at this point. I think his arm’s in tatters, and I wouldn’t want to commit $75 million to find out if I’m right or not.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 6, 2011 at 11:27 AM

        He’s still young at 31. I’m sure if the Yankees were interested he would have to pass a physical. Also keep in mind he would not be under the same stress with the Yankees as with the Mets. He wouldn’t have to pitch 8 or 9 innings and he can get a rest occasionally. I think if nothing else is available it worth the risk. I don’t think he’s as beat up as you might think.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 6, 2011 at 2:42 PM

        Maybe not shredded, but I would trust an arm to hold up when it’s missed the past two Septembers. I definitely wouldn’t bet $75 million on it.

        And I ‘m not gonna lie, I’m befuddled as to why anybody would prefer Mitre to Joba. Joba was a league-average starter even while being jerked around in ’09 (and was fantastic in the role in ’08). Mitre has sucked for half a decade.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 6, 2011 at 3:23 PM

        Kevin S – Your comment about Joba only proves my point. He was very good in 2008 but that was primarily as a set up man to Mo. You’ve read the pieces I assume from Cashman that said Joba hasn’t been the same since and injury he sustained in late 2008. Since the 2008 season he has been anything but consistent. Anyone who has watched him the last 2 seasons realizes that. In 2010 he was down right scary as a fan many a game was not safe when he came in. Like it or not that’s the truth. Like I said he gets flustered when things go south on him and that is not a good trait for a starting pitcher. Joba had his shot in spring training 2010 to show his stuff and win a starting job and he didn’t do it. Did he have the mental toughness to put that disappointment behind him and pitch well in 2010? NO. This of course is just my opinion, but I think Joba has until this summers trade deadline to show the Yankees something if he doesn’t I think he’s trade bait (for real). As for Mitre or Joba I personally think you could flip a coin it makes no difference.

  8. pisano - Feb 6, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    uyf1950… As usual a very reasonable post, but why not make it more attractive and substitute Joba for Mitre that might get the Mets more interested, and like you said it’s not like he’d have to pitch into the late innings with the Yankees bullpen as it is. He could be a strong six inning pitcher and his career would be alot longer.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 6, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      Joba, works for me. My thought behind Mitre was that he at least has “starter” potential. Joba, I don’t know about. I think he’s done as far as a “starter”. He just doesn’t seem to have the mental make up to be a starter. He’s to “wound up”. But either way it’s kind of like a Chinese menu. Pick 2 from columns A, B and C.

  9. pisano - Feb 6, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Why not enroll Rodriguez and his father in law into the Betty Ford clinic it might do them both a world of good.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 6, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      They should send them to where it was Zambrano went.

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