The Detroit Tigers bullpen issues have been well chronicled in just about every forum imaginable and as the trade season approaches, it's a good bet the Tigers will be linked to every bullpen arm with a pulse (pulse possibly optional for a "Proven Closer") from here until the deadline.
One such arm currently in Milwaukee could possibly be someone in demand. Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod, is on a short deal with a last place club. If he continues to post solid numbers it would seem that he is a likely candidate to be on the move. Let's take a look.
(SIERA: Skills Interactive Earned Run Average; BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play.)
Stats via Fangraphs
Rodriguez has been long been one of baseball's most well known 9th inning save compilers since bursting onto the scene late in 2002 just in time to be a key piece down the stretch for the Los Angeles Angels to win a World Series title.
However 2002 is a long time ago. This isn't the guy who set the save record with 62 in 2008 either. The wipeout slider that put fear in the hearts of many a batter is now gone from his repertoire. A fastball that once averaged over 94-mph now just breaks 90. K-Rod is on his third team now but has regained at least part-time "Closer" status in Milwaukee this year with the struggles of John Axford.
He has tossed fewer than 20 innings so far this season, therefore the sample is small. But what we see is a reliever who is still managing to strike out a batter per inning and a guy who, to this point, has drastically cut his walk rate from prior seasons. In short, there might be some fight left in K-Rod's arm for his next team to utilize down the stretch.
Why he fits the Tigers
Rodriguez would be a fit in the Tigers bullpen to simply provide more options for Jim Leyland as the pennant race heats up. Rodriguez has the experience to take the hill in tight spots under pennant race pressure. He has closed games and also spent 2012 in Milwaukee pitching set-up relief.
Why he doesn't fit the Tigers
K-Rod is no longer the fire-breathing relief monster that clubs are probably hoping to add to their bullpen mix. The current K-Rod is a three pitch guy who is getting by on guile as much as "stuff" these days. He just has the feel of a true roll of the dice. You could get 25 great innings...but you could easily get 25 innings of 4.70 ERA relief. (Luke Putkonen can probably do that)
How likely is a trade?
The Brewers are going nowhere and Rodriguez' deal is up at the end of the year. Milwaukee would be well-advised to get something for K-Rod while they can and start the process of re-tooling for 2014 and beyond.
What the Tigers should give up
One of the nice things about "settling" for K-Rod is that the price should be fairly easy to swallow. The Tigers have some nice outfield depth built up in their system. Perhaps not these specific names, but something along the lines of Erie's Tyler Collins plus maybe a guy with some power but not much else like Aaron Westlake (1B/Lakeland) should be enough to get two months of K-Rod.