Winners, Losers From Mets-Brewers K-Rod Trade

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New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson said in a teleconference Wednesday that trading Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers wasn’t an indication that the Mets plan to be sellers at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Rather, Alderson said he chose to make the move when he did because he felt the Mets’ bargaining position was stronger now than it would have been as more relievers hit the trade market.

“What we have discussed in the last few weeks is how important each of our next few games have been and will be. We’re obviously in a delicate part of the season where wins and losses might dictate what we do. I certainly wouldn’t draw any conclusions from this transaction.”

The Mets have 44% of their 2011 games remaining and currently reside one game above .500 at 46-45 (.522), 11 games behind the team with the best record in baseball, the NL East division leading Philadelphia Phillies. They are 7 1/2 games behind in the race for the National League Wild Card behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves.

On Wednesday’s call Alderson pointed out that the dumping of K-Rod’s salary had been expected by both the players and media since as early as Spring Training given the fact that the Mets would have had to pick up K-Rod’s $17.5 million option had he finished 55 games this season. He was at 34, on pace to finish 61. (BTW – Didn’t anyone tell Alderson before the season started that they weren’t under any obligation to use K-Rod 34 times before the All-Star break?)

The former Mets closer is 29-years old and in the final guaranteed season of a deal that pays at least three years, $37 million and was negotiated by former agent Paul Kinzer. If Rodriguez finishes 55 games this season, a vesting option for $17.5 million kicks in for 2012. Otherwise, K-Rod receives a $3.5 million buyout in addition to his $11.5 million salary for this season. Under the terms of the trade, the Mets sent the Brewers $5 million, and now the Brewers are responsible for either picking up the $17.5 million option or buying him out at $3.5 million.

While this may or may have not been the start of a run on of some of the higher priced players on the Mets roster, the timing of the Mets working out a trade of Francisco Rodriguez during the All-Star Game might have been more than coincidence. After last Thursday’s Mets game at Dodger Stadium, K-Rod signed on with his new agent, Scott Boras. Upon taking the job, Boras immediately fired a few shots across the bow of the Citi Field offices.

“Francisco Rodriguez is a historic closer. He’s not going anywhere to be a setup man.”

“Closers don’t make good setup men. Does anyone want an unhappy setup man in their clubhouse?”

Hey Scott Boras. Surprise!

It looks like K-Rod’s first experience with Boras isn’t going to be a pleasant one as here as there is no way the Brewers will let K-Rod finish 21 more games and incur the $17.5 million contract. K-Rod did not have the Brewers on his 10-team no-trade list because when he signed his three-year, $37-million deal in December 2009, the prevailing thought was that the Brewers couldn’t afford him, so he didn’t put them on the list. In essence, Alderson and the Mets pulled a fast one on Boras and K-Rod here as he was unable to block a trade to Milwaukee; he had no option but to accept it. You have to like the fact that Alderson was asserted himself here sending the message through his actions that clearly he was not going to be dictated to a player agent, particularly one as belligerent as Boras.

If the Brewers were to let K-Rod get close to finishing 21 more games it would simply be a tease and they would risk infuriating him (not that he isn’t infuriated already.) And while it’s not that the Brewers won’t let K-Rod finish any games, you can certainly expect incumbent Brewers’ closer John Axford to get the final out the majority of the time. Axford is perfectly capable of doing the job here as he is 23-for-25 in save chances with a 2.83 ERA. Since blowing a save on Opening Day, he has a 1.99 ERA. Axford has converted his last 20 save opportunities which is tied for the third-longest streak in Brewers history.

There certainly seems to be some potential for this to get messy in the Brewers clubhouse and we know that that K-Rod has a temper. We also know that when K-Rod has pitched in situations that were not closing opportunities in the past that he hasn’t been particularly effective. In fact, of late, even when he pitches in the ninth inning he hasn’t been that effective as he’s given up 5 runs in his last 10 2/3 innings. So while this may get messy in the Brewers clubhouse, this has the potential to get messy on the field too.

So while the watch is on in New York to see if the Mets try to play it out or trade their high priced talent, the Brewers are unquestionably going for it now. The Brewers know that All-Star Game MVP Prince Fielder (also a Boras client) is likely to leave via free agency when the year is out and they view this year as a legitimate opportunity to win the World Series while he’s still there.

With K-Rod on the roster now I have two things to say to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and the rest of the Brew Crew. First, good luck. Second, Caveat Emptor! What was wrong with Heath Bell?

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