The Tigers officially picked up the option for Francisco Rodriguez and will pay him $6 million for the 2017 season. The 34-year old closer originally signed the contract with the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2015 season. The Tigers acquired him via trade last offseason in exchange for infield prospect Javier Betancourt.
Whether or not K-Rod’s option was going to be picked up was largely in the air for the Tigers. As a team that has lacked bullpen stability in seasons past, it makes sense to keep a player capable of closing.
However, while K-Rod has gained back some effectiveness, he was still only worth $4.8 million by FanGraphs’ $/WAR estimations last season. Assuming Rodriguez emulates that productivity once again, that’s only a loss of just over $1 million, which may still be worth it considering how scarce the free agent crop is this offseason. Add in the fact that his buyout would have cost $2 million, and keeping K-Rod on the roster actually makes sense.
Justifying the move was Tigers’ GM Al Avila:
“We liked the job K-Rod did last season and the numbers show he was a reliable closer for us. He stabilizes the back end of our bullpen and provides veteran leadership to our younger bullpen arms.
While 44 saves is nice, the time to evaluate relievers based on saves is well behind us. Rodriguez’s strikeout rate took a significant tumble, dropping more than six percentage points on his 2015 total. Compounding matters further is the fact that he walked nearly nine percent of the batters he faced—his worst total since 2012.
Rodriguez still has value on a major league roster, and his $6 million is right around that. However, the Tigers may look to make further additions to their bullpen over the offseason.