Once again, the Tigers head into the offseason in need of a closer. Rays right-hander Fernando Rodney made waves when he saved 48 games with a 0.60 ERA in 2012, but many will remember that he started his career as a Tiger. Could a reunion be in store for Rodney and the Tigers in 2014?
Who is he?
The Tigers signed Rodney as an amateur free agent all the way back in 1997, and he didn't make his big league debut until 2002 at the age of 25. Rodney pitched in seven seasons with the Tigers, amassing a 3.70 ERA and 70 saves in 330 innings. He signed with the Los Angeles Angels after saving 37 games for Detroit in 2009, and struggled through two seasons in Anaheim. He set the American League ERA record for a relief pitcher in 2012, allowing just five earned runs in 74 2/3 innings.
Why should we care?
Despite the amazing 2012 season, Rodney is a step below Joe Nathan and Grant Balfour in this season's free agent class of relievers. Because of this, he's likely to come at a discounted price compared to those two, allowing the Tigers to (hopefully) spent some decent money on another left-handed reliever for the bullpen.
Why should we stay away?
Rodney appears to be the next player in a long line of relievers that have revitalized their careers under Joe Maddon's watch. He has a 1.91 ERA over the past two seasons with 158 strikeouts in 141 1/3 innings. Prior to his stint in Tampa, Rodney had not allowed an ERA under 4.24 since the 2006 season. Of course, the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field didn't hurt matters either. Rodney allowed just five home runs in two years in Tampa.
Also, the term "Rodney Coaster" wasn't invented overnight. The 36 year old Dominican has a career 1.36 WHIP and walks roughly 4 1/2 batters per nine innings. He has finished a season with a walk rate under three batters per nine just one time in his career -- 2012, naturally -- and walked 4.86 batters per nine in 2013.
Will he end up in Detroit?
It's possible, but I think the Tigers go big. If it weren't for Rodney's amazing 2012 season, teams wouldn't even be considering him for ninth inning work at this point. He returned to his normal ways in 2013 -- albeit with 82 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings -- and was a decidedly average closer. Given the contract he's likely to command, the Tigers would have been better off picking up Jose Veras' option earlier this offseason.
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