It appears that 2017 wasn’t the farewell tour for one former All-Star reliever after all. Attempting one final comeback, Francisco Rodriguez has latched on with the Phillies on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training for one final shot at the big leagues.
The man that affectionately took on the persona “K-Rod” after taking the league by storm in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels as the team made its World Series run has had a unique career trajectory that has been anything but arcing. Rodriguez spent seven season with the Angels, getting elected to to consecutive All-Star Games in 2007 and 2008, as well as in 2004. In seven seasons with the Halos, Rodriguez led the league in saves three times, including a record breaking 62 saves in 2008. For four consecutive years, the hard throwing righty eclipsed the forty save mark, posting no worse than a 2.81 ERA from 2005-2008.
During the 2008 offseason, Rodriguez signed a free agent deal with the New York Mets worth approximately $10 million a year. After a 2009 season that saw his ERA balloon into the high threes for the first time in his Major League career despite recording 35 saves, Rodriguez bounced back in 2010 with a 2.20 ERA and 25 saves. Midway through the 2011 season, the Mets dealt Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers for Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario. Rodriguez tossed 31 games and logged 29 innings in the setup role for the Brewers, who lost to the eventual World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, in six games in the NLCS.
Rodriguez resigned with the Brewers that offseason, but struggled mightily in 2012, posting a 4.38 ERA, allowing the most hits and runs and second most homeruns of his career in 72 innings pitched. He recorded just three saves that season, again primarily working as the seventh and eighth inning man. It appeared that K-Rod’s career may have been dwindling to an end.
He wasn’t signed prior to the start of the 2013 season, but eventually would resign with the Brewers midway through April. The lower cost move paid dividends for both parties, as Rodriguez experienced a career resurgence and the Brewers got a steady back end of the rotation guy that they eventually parlayed into trade bait. Rodriguez pitched in 25 games for the Brewers that season, posting a 1.09 ERA and 10 saves in 25 appearances. The walks were back down and the strikeout numbers rose once more. On July 23, the Brewers shipped Rodriguez to the Baltimore Orioles for Nick Delmonico. The numbers in Baltimore were nowhere near as sharp, as Rodriguez struggled to a 4.50 ERA in 23 appearances.
The 2013 season came to an end, and the Orioles had no interest in resigning Rodriguez. K-Rod picked up his third stint in Milwaukee when the Brewers resigned him in February, 2014. Rodriguez pitched the next two years in Milwaukee, shuffling into the closer’s role after the Brewers traded Jeremy Jeffress. The move paid off, once more, for the Brewers, who got 82 saves and a 2.66 ERA in two years from the resurgent Rodriguez.
As the 2015 season drew to a close, the Brewers used his upgraded play to cash in, trading Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers for for Javier Bentancourt. The 2016 season was another success for Rodriguez, who posted a 3.24 ERA and 44 saves in his first season in Detroit. 2017, however, was nowhere near as kind to Rodriguez, who struggled with consistency, giving up 22 earned runs in 25.2 innings pitched, posting a 7.82 ERA. Rodriguez’s WHIP inflated significantly, and he was released by the Tigers by the end of June.
It’s truly unknown which Rodriguez the Phillies will be getting when he reports to camp in a few weeks, or if he even has anything left in the tank. I can promise you it will not be the Angels dominant closer, but if the Phillies can get 2016 Tigers Rodriguez, it gives the club another valuable arm to use in the latter stages of the game. The man may be past his prime, but he isn’t fourth in all-time saves by accident.
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports