General Manager Doug Melvin has fired the first salvo in the coming race for superiority in the National League Central Division.
Francisco Rodriguez is now a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Following the completion of the All-Star Game, a contest that saw the National League emerge victorious for the second straight year, K-Rod was acquired late Tuesday evening from the New York Mets for two players to be named. This immediately upgrades the Brewers’ bullpen, to say the least.
Given that Milwaukee was owner of 20 losses by members of its bullpen (worst in MLB to this point), it was about as obvious as Prince Fielder’s winning of the All-Star Game MVP tonight that the Brewers needed help. Boy did Melvin ever deliver.
Rodriguez comes to Milwaukee with a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves (of 26 chances) in 42 games. He also has finished 34 of those games, a number which we’ll refer back to in a minute.
K-Rod also brings with him to Milwaukee a thirst for winning and an ability to set up should the Brewers choose to have him fill that role. Obviously Milwaukee already has an elite closer in John Axford (23-of-25 in saves, 2.83 ERA) so one would think that the Brewers have already internally discussed who will fill which role going forward.
Personally I would prefer Axford to continue to close for two reasons. First, he’s been excellent this season after easing into game action. Opening Day in Cincinnati saw Axford blow his first save chance of the season by way of a grand slam home run by Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez. In April an opportunity was lost against the Philadelphia Phillies, a game which the Brewers ultimately won anyway in extra innings. You say you want another example of his performance? How about going the entire month of June without giving up a run until its final day, and even that run was an unearned one?
Besides Axford’s individual performance, there is another reason to want him to continue to set up. Remember how I mentioned that Rodriguez has finished 34 games this season? I brought it up because he has a vesting contract option worth $17.5MM should he finish 55 games this season. Given the Brewers’ propensity to play close ballgames, whoever closes stands to finish plenty between now and the end of the year.
Sure, the Brewers could afford to pay Rodriguez that sum for one year in 2012 should Prince Fielder depart in free agency (and perhaps that’s part of their design to compete again next year if that happens), but how the team spends that sum of money is a topic for another day.
Suffice it to say that this trade will no doubt send ripples throughout the NL Central specifically and the rest of the league as well as teams take their turns in the chess match that is a Major League Baseball pennant race.