How will the Mets handle Francisco Rodriguez this season?
We’re probably getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with this topic, but it’s a worthwhile discussion on a slow news day.
The Mets will get plenty of payroll relief when Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo come off the books after this season, but the status of Francisco Rodriguez could be much trickier. His $17.5 million option for 2012 will vest if he finishes just 55 games in 2011.
While last season was the first time since 2005 that Rodriguez didn’t finish 55 games, he almost certainly would have gotten there if it wasn’t for the incident with his father-in-law and subsequent season-ending thumb surgery. With a 2.20 ERA and his best strikeout rate since 2007, K-Rod was pitching quite well at the time. He was at 46 games finished when he played his last game on August 14.
The union filed a grievance against the Mets after they placed Rodriguez on the disqualified list without pay. The two sides eventually reached a settlement where the Mets were allowed to keep the $3.14 million they would have otherwise paid him for the rest of the season. The Mets originally saw his thumb injury as an opportunity to void his entire contract, so I can’t help but view their efforts in a new light given what we’ve learned about the Wilpons in the past week.
I’m not sure if Rodriguez’s contract situation will affect the way the Mets use him this season, but Sandy Alderson doesn’t seem like the type of general manager who would want a $17.5 million closer on his payroll in the first place. This could open the door for the Mets to possibly use him in unconventional ways, perhaps as a “relief ace,” as opposed to your atypical closer, but they will have to be careful. With the Mets on shaky financial ground, you can bet that the MLBPA will be on the lookout for any funny business.