The Detroit Tigers have been in a constant state of flux with their bullpen, trying to nail down a solid group of pitchers to be used in various game situations. With the recent permanent addition of Shane Greene to the pen, the potential of calling up Joe Jimenez, and the overall improvement of Bruce Rondon — who the Tigers have long been grooming for a closer role — the question of what to do with closer Francisco Rodriguez has begun to circulate.
On Thursday, the Tigers exercised their $6 million contract option on Rodriguez, who will be turning 35 next January. Tigers general manager Al Avila has made bold promises this offseason of wanting to cut down on expensive contracts and older players, hoping to get a cheaper, younger team on the field for the coming seasons. This has lead many to believe that any player is fair game in the trade market, which was evidenced when the Tigers traded center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Angels with no immediate answer on who would be stepping in to replace him.
On Friday, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman speculated that K-Rod may be on the move this winter.
Miami may look at possible trades for Rodney in advance of option decision. Same may go for K-Rod. (FR option steep for MM)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 4, 2016
Rodriguez, the active save leader in the majors, had an excellent 2016 season for the Tigers. He had 44 saves and a 3.24 ERA with 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings against 3.2 walks per nine. His 54.7 percent ground ball rate in 58 1/3 innings was the best of his career. He was a consistent and welcome addition to a bullpen that has long needed reliable arms. But in his mid-thirties he may have peaked, and having a young strong arm like Rondon in line for the closer role could potentially make Rodriguez better suited as a bargaining chip rather than a permanent bullpen fixture for next season.
There are a few teams currently in the market for a closer, all of which could provide interesting returns. One option might be the Dodgers, who may lose closer Kenley Jansen as a free agent, and Avila could choose to pick up catcher Carlos Ruiz as a back-up for James McCann. The Cubs will also be losing closer Aroldis Chapman to free agency and there are a number of interesting options the Tigers might want to acquire from the newly minted World Series winners. The Miami Marlins declined Fernando Rodney’s option, and could also be in the market for relief help.
Of course, the Tigers may decide to keep Rodriguez, hoping to create a more cohesive bullpen for the next season rather than shaking things up by trading their proven closer.