DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers made their first offseason trade under general manager Al Avila on Wednesday. The team has acquired right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez as their closer for the 2016 season. The Tigers are sending minor league utility player Javier Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of the deal, as well as a player to be named later.
In addition, the Tigers may receive a PTBNL, but that's not a guarantee. During a press conference with general manager Al Avila, the details of the contract were termed "complicated." Paul Wezner from TigsTown provided some insight as to what that might mean for the trade here and here.
Rodriguez, or K-Rod, is a 33-year-old with 14 years experience at the major league level. In 2015 he put up a 2.91 FIP and an ERA of 2.21. His 1.9 walks per nine is a career-best and his 6.0 BB/9 ranked as his best of his career since 2005. He's made the MLB All-Star team for the last two years.
The trade for K-Rod is the first in what will likely be several moves to stabilize the Tigers' bullpen. Early last week the Brewers were reportedly open to trading him in an effort to "get younger." If you like the "proven closer" label, Rodriguez leads active closers with 386 saves, and ranks seventh on the all-time list for saves.
Betancourt, going back to Milwaukee in the deal, hit .263/.304/.336 with 17 doubles, 129 hits and 48 RBI with Advanced-A Lakeland in 2015. He is currently participating in winter ball.
For his part, Miguel Cabrera was happy about the trade as he shared a brief thought with Venezuelan reporter Wilmer Reina:
"It's great. We've waited for years to have a closer of (K-Rod's) quality."
Rodriguez has $9.5 million remaining in his contract, which includes $7.5 million in 2016 and a $2 million buyout option. Should the Tigers decide to use their team option, it would cost them $6 million. The Tigers were interested in their former closer, Joakim Soria, but this acquisition decreases the chances of that happening.
The Tigers had engaged in talks with Soria in the last week, but weren't "on the same page," according to the Detroit Free Press' Anthony Fenech. No formal offer was ever made. However, that doesn't rule it out completely, though. Soria is reportedly open to any role since he's done so in the past, according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo. So, there's still hope for that avenue.
The trade allows for the Tigers to hone in on their starting pitching needs, rather than pay out a considerable sum for a closer. In doing so, the team can allocate more money to paying for bigger names rather than settle for mid-market. The Tigers need two starting pitchers if they're going to seriously contend in 2016, and getting by with Kyle Lobstein and Shane Greene isn't going to cut it.