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January 20, 2012

The BP First Take

Friday, January 20

by Daniel Rathman

The Brewers’ payroll is set to crack the $100 million mark for the first time in franchise history this season. According to general manager Doug Melvin, that puts the team “way over” its budget. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel goes on to explain that bringing back Prince Fielder was never feasible—even on a short-term deal—because of the raises due to fellow position players Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Ryan Braun. But the more interesting implication here is Melvin’s apparent error in offering arbitration to Francisco Rodriguez.

As I wrote last week, GMs and agents overplaying their hand in the relief market has been a recurring theme this offseason. The K-Rod situation is just another example. Coming off a season during which he was worth only 0.7 WARP and saw his strikeout rate drop by nearly three percent, Rodriguez was nonetheless a Type-A free agent. The thought of picking up two draft picks proved too tempting for the Brewers to resist.

Unfortunately, in a free-agent landscape flooded with possible closers, many of them with better recent credentials than K-Rod’s 2011 effort, the arbitration offer proved to be the 30-year-old’s best option. Even though Rodriguez prefers ninth-inning duties to set-up work, he understood that returning to Milwaukee was a sound financial decision. After agreeing to a one-year deal worth $8 million to avoid arbitration—a salary just under what the superior Ryan Madson will get from the Reds—Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras, seem to have made the right choice.

 Melvin’s decision to offer Rodriguez arbitration led directly to the Brewers’ current predicament. Paying $8 million to a set-up man is an unwise decision for any club, but particularly for one that with little wiggle room in its budget. And though hindsight is 20-20, if Melvin was, in fact, told to keep his payroll in the low-$90 million range, he had no business giving K-Rod an escape hatch from a team-friendly market.      

 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

12 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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HalfStreet

It is amazing that yet another team falls out of the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. It is even more amazing that, in spite of the apparent landscape, Scott Boras will probably still pull something out of thin air, and we Nats fans won't be able to enjoy seeing Fielder play first base for us in DC.

+1/2St.

Jan 20, 2012 03:35 AM
rating: 1
 
stewbies

why wouldn't a team like Phillies or maybe even the Angels who might need some bullpen help take k-rod off of the brewers' hands? The brewers eat a $1m of his salary, their cost of offering him the arbitration.

Jan 20, 2012 06:11 AM
rating: 1
 
timber

Why would those teams want to take on such an overly-inflated salary? The Brewers would have to give up a very good prospect to sweeten such a deal, and they really don't have any of those (well, they do, most were 2011 draftees and can't be traded yet?)

Jan 20, 2012 08:46 AM
rating: -1
 
ScottyB

The fact that Axford was found on the scrap heap, makes $440k, and is a GREAT closer makes this whole situation even more puzzling.

I guess the Brewers could salvage some value from KRod with a trade-deadline deal- some team is always looking for short-term relief help down the stretch.

Jan 20, 2012 09:22 AM
rating: 1
 
raybert

I'm not sure on this one. I think Melvin would have been killed if he didn't offer him arbitration and then he left. Further, he seemed to hate his time there and so I was shocked to hear that he accepted the offer. Awful outcome yes, but I think Melvin was in a bit of no-win situation here.

Jan 20, 2012 10:00 AM
rating: 0
 
Matt

I think whatever flak he would have received, he should be able to handle. He only has to answer to the owner, and it should be an easy business case to make to him. The push to win this year is not the same as last year, so no need for desperation.

Jan 20, 2012 14:31 PM
rating: 0
 
Sacramento

Maybe we'll see something along the lines of the Rafael Soriano deal from a couple years ago?

Jan 20, 2012 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
Dennis
(749)

K-Rod's 2011 Line: 3.02 xFIP, 25.7 K%, 8.5 BB%
Madson's 2011 Line: 2.94 xFIP, 25.2 K%, 6.5 BB%

Sure Rodriguez will walk an extra batter every few weeks or so, but I don't see why one signing is lauded as the biggest bargain of the offseason while the other is looked at as a ridiculous overpay.

Don't get me wrong, that kind of money for any pitcher who contributes for 60 innings isn't going to be worth it, but as "enlightened" fans, we are supposed to look past the closer label and see relievers for who they actually are. Give $8.5 million to a closer(!) and that's a great signing, while $8 million for a lowly set-up man and it's just a waste of money.

Jan 20, 2012 17:49 PM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

That's a worthwhile point, and I do agree that the gap between Madson and Rodriguez isn't especially large. However, context also matters here.

The Reds spent this offseason finding ways to take advantage of the Cardinals losing Pujols and the Brewers losing Fielder; by adding Latos, Marshall, and Madson, they may have become NL Central favorites.

If the Brewers didn't have much financial wiggle room in their efforts to overcome losing Fielder (and to some extent, the possibility of being without Braun for 50 games), they should've been looking to make moves with a greater potential impact than giving $8 million to a reliever. Aramis Ramirez helps a bit, but not enough.

Jan 20, 2012 19:19 PM
 
Dennis
(749)

I'm sure Melvin regets misreading the reliever market this offseason, but given that he NEEDED to sign Rodriguez, I'd say he actually did quite well in "only" paying $8 million (a 35% pay cut from 2011), as I'm sure K-Rod could compare himself favorably to the most expensive reliever contracts ever handed out if his salary was decided by an arbitration panel.

Jan 20, 2012 20:00 PM
rating: 1
 
kcheaden

Why did he NEED to sign Krod? Paying $8m for a set-up man is a waste of money. The KRod gamble was a HUGE f' up by Melvin.

Jan 23, 2012 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Dennis
(749)

...because he offered him arbitration. Like I said, he probably regrets misreading the reliever market and chasing the draft picks only to have KRod accept arbitration, but that doesn't change the fact that Melvin NEEDED to sign him. I'm not saying Melvin didn't "f' up". I'm saying $8 million is a pretty good outcome for the Brewers when early estimates were that it was going to be $12-$13 million "f' up"...

Jan 23, 2012 13:22 PM
rating: 1
 
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