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July 13, 2011

Transaction Analysis Blog

Brewers Acquire K-Rod UPDATED

by R.J. Anderson

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Milwaukee Brewers
Acquired RHP Francisco Rodriguez and cash from the Mets for two players to be named later. [7/13]

The All-Star game had just ended and Prince Fielder had just stepped back onto the field to receive his MVP trophy as Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Brewers were acquiring the Mets closer. It happened in a flash, and the immediate reaction was confusion. After all, the Brewers not only have a good closer, John Axford, in tow, but Axford has outpitched Rodriguez with a better earned run average and strikeout-to-walk ratio this season.

Whether Rodriguez becomes the Brew Crew’s closer is vital to this trade. Recently, Rodriguez suggested he would not waive his limited no-trade clause unless his new team allowed him to rack up the saves, but make no mistake: saves are not the metric important to Rodriguez anymore, and this is not about ego, just money. It's unknown what teams were on the no-trade list, but Rodriguez also hinted he could be persuaded to restructure his deal for, you guessed it, more money. The Mets made one mistake by giving Rodriguez a no-trade clause and another by giving him an option for the 2012 season that becomes guaranteed under three conditions: 1) Rodriguez recording 55 game finishes in 2011; 2) Rodriguez combined for 100 finishes in 2010 and 2011; and 3) team doctors giving him a clean bill of health after the 2011 season.

As it turns out, Rodriguez will meet the performance conditions should he hit the 55-finishes mark. With 34 finishes already under his belt this season, Rodriguez simply needs to finish a little under one-third of the Brewers 70 remaining games to get the payoff of $14 million—the difference between his $17.5 million salary next season and the $3.5 million buyout the Brewers would otherwise hold.  That seems like a given, however, perhaps the Brewers are thinking their top three starters and collection of strong hitters can combine for some complete games and blowouts—not too many, just enough to avoid paying a one-inning reliever $14 million more than they have to.

Of course, it’s impossible to fully evaluate this deal without knowing how much cash is going to the Brewers and who the two players to be named later will become, but conventional wisdom suggests the Brewers should have spent their outgoing assets to fill their gaping shortstop hole. For now, though, it seems the Brewers have decided to upgrade their bullpen—and it should be an upgrade. Even if moving from Axford to Rodriguez in the ninth is a downgrade, remember that the cascading effect of moving Axford into a set-up role is that he can now enter in tough seventh and eighth inning jams, which should help the Brewers out in high-leverage situations that can otherwise change a game’s outcome.

You just wonder whether there is another reliever on the market available or who will come available that would have the same affect without the potential financial ramifications. Lest one appeal to authority, but for now, you have to trust the Brewers did their research, and with a scorched farm system, maybe this really was the best possible deal—just beware, sometimes no deal is better than the best possible deal. Whether that becomes the case here will be revealed soon enough.


Wednesday morning update: As it turns out, Milwaukee was not on Rodriguez's no-trade list, and the Mets will send over $5 million. That minimizes the risk on Milwaukee's end considerably, as the option is very unlikely to vest. Depending on who the players to be named later are (and keep in mind: they cannot have played in the National League this season), then it looks like a solid deal that helps Milwaukee push forward in a pennant chase.

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

Related Content:  Milwaukee Brewers

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

BP Comment Quick Links

ColonelTom

Prediction - K-Rod is one of the players to be named later.

Jul 12, 2011 21:53 PM
rating: 2
 
ColonelTom

(At least if he reaches 55 GF and the option vests.)

Jul 12, 2011 21:55 PM
rating: 0
 
timber

A PTBNL has to be a minor leaguer.

Jul 13, 2011 07:32 AM
rating: 0
 
Scott44

who closes for the Mets?

Jul 12, 2011 22:16 PM
rating: 0
 
sensij

CBS seems to think it is Bobby Parnell. Who else would even have a chance... Izzy?

Jul 12, 2011 22:35 PM
rating: 0
 
ColonelTom

If the Mets are in full-on fire-sale mode, why not try Izzy and see if he can run off some saves and bring back a decent prospect at the deadline? Otherwise Parnell seems the obvious choice - Beato doesn't miss enough bats for the role.

Jul 12, 2011 22:40 PM
rating: 0
 
ttt

Izzy says he wants to stay.

Jul 13, 2011 06:38 AM
rating: 0
 
mattcollins

I thought K-Rod had a limited no trade clause. If so, perhaps he did not have to waive it to go to the Brewers, if they weren't on the list, and thus will have to set up without too much fussing if he wants a good deal next year.

Jul 12, 2011 22:28 PM
rating: 0
 
bp

The Brewers can't let KRod close. Too much $ at stake.

Jul 13, 2011 03:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Someone once pointed out to me that teams don't pay stars the big bucks to play baseball for them; they do it to keep the stars from playing baseball for their opponents. I wonder if that's part of the story here. If K-Rod is "strengthening" the Milwaukee bullpen, he won't be "strengthening" the St. Louis one, which -- to those who believe in the cult of the closer -- may need him more. Did Milwaukee conclude that it was worth two PTBNLs to keep a division rival from making a similar deal?

Jul 13, 2011 06:06 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

I'm sure if the Cards want to pay $10 million for half a season of a good reliever, they can find other options...

Jul 14, 2011 01:07 AM
rating: 0
 
wbmurphy428

I don't believe this isn't clear to everyone. THE BREWERS PLAN ON USING K-ROD AS A SETUP MAN. K-Rod could not block this trade because there were only 10 teams on his no-trade clause and the Brewers were NOT one of them. So the fact that the Brewers have Axelrod is exactly WHY they could do this deal...if K-Rod was sent to a team with an established closer that chose to use him as a setup man, he would not reach the games-finished mark and would have no grounds for a grievance. There are NO plans for the Brewers to use K-Rod as a closer! All of this is being widely reported by other media outlets. I'm very surprised that BP for once gets the story so very wrong.

Jul 13, 2011 06:34 AM
rating: 14
 
ofMontreal

Yes, of course KRod is #2 guy out of the pen. But the other thing is that Melvin has a history of overpaying closers on one year deals. Going forward, the Brewers don't care about the unavoidable option and have KRod for next season. Where he becomes an asset to be sold to the 'losers' of closerpalooza this off season.

And that all presupposes that the Brewers don't resign Fielder. Which they just might.

Jul 13, 2011 06:47 AM
rating: 0
 
NP_14

Melvin also tried very hard to overpay Francisco Cordero on a 4 year deal.

Jul 13, 2011 13:31 PM
rating: 0
 
xnumberoneson

This is an absolute no-brainer from the Mets point of view. The trade market for K-Rod was limited and the two PTBNLs are worth less to them than the $14M saved by dumping their closer.

Jul 13, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 1
 
mrdannyg

It's not $14M because they've already paid him a chunk this season, and included cash to the Brewers in the deal. From what I've read, they basically covered all of his salary this season.

They get 2 PTBNL, avoid the awkward situation of taking K-Rod out of the closer role to avoid his option, and avoid the $3.5M buyout next year.

Jul 13, 2011 07:53 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

If the Mets changes KRod's role, a union grievance would quickly follow. It would not just be awkward, the Mets would probably be out the $ either way.

Good deal for both teams.

Jul 13, 2011 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

Mrdannyg: the $14M is the diff between the 17.5 option and the 3.5 buyout, for next year. So they are giving Milwaukee $5M, to avoid paying the 14. Cost to Milwaukee: the 3.5 buyout, plus 2 ptnbl. Not bad for a premiere set-up guy, just for the half-season where he might be the difference in a close race.

Jul 13, 2011 09:31 AM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

And they'd have had to pay that $5M anyway, as his salary the rest of the year. So it is precisely a savings of $14M.

Jul 13, 2011 09:33 AM
rating: 0
 
mrdannyg

Yeah, I regret how I worded my post. Though I think the Mets would have found a way to avoid the option vesting, as Scotty points out, that might have been tricky.

Definitely a smart deal by both teams.

Jul 13, 2011 11:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Charles Kurz

Any idea who the PTBNL are?

Jul 13, 2011 08:14 AM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

Non-prospects, for sure. Teams in Milwaukee's situation really had the Mets over a barrel; while K-rod is mildly useful to a team like the Brewers, he was an enormous millstone to the Mets, since they likely had to let him keep closing or risk a grievance. I think the PTNBL are just a fig leaf, so it isn't a naked giveaway.

Jul 13, 2011 09:36 AM
rating: 0
 
mattcollins

The Brewers have a very weak farm system to begin with, so they won't be amazing prospects, but they'll be better than non-prospects. The Mets are already paying his salary for the remainder of the year, so the Brewers must have offered something enticing enough to trade him now as opposed to at the trade deadline, or just putting him on waivers and seeing who claimed him for the exact same cost savings.

Jul 13, 2011 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

As a Mets fan, I'd settle for a case of new baseballs.

Jul 13, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 4
 
yadenr

They probably won't be new, just gently used.

Jul 13, 2011 13:06 PM
rating: 0
 
jalee121

Why is it the PTBNL cannot have played in the National League this season?

Jul 13, 2011 09:58 AM
rating: 1
 
ColonelTom

The player has to "change leagues" according to Wikipedia. MLB seems to maintain the distinction between NL and AL for this purpose, so an NL-to-AL or AL-to-NL swap works, but NL-to-NL would have to be a minor leaguer.

I had recalled the John McDonald-for-John McDonald swap a few years back, but there must be some subtle difference I'm missing. (Per Baseball Reference, McDonald went from TOR to DET in a "conditional deal" in July 2005, then was sent back to TOR to conclude that deal in December.) Anyone know why that was allowed? Has the rule changed since then?

Jul 13, 2011 11:30 AM
rating: 2
 
jalee121

Thanks for the info. I'm a huge dork when it comes to rule qwirks like this and did not know it existed until today.

Jul 13, 2011 15:25 PM
rating: 0
 
PeterBNYC

Thanks for unraveling certain of the mysteries in this deal, but why do you say in the Update that "the option is very unlikely to vest." Is that because you assume the Brewers will use F-Rod exclusively as a set-up man? That's the logical answer, but I don't see it.

Jul 13, 2011 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

Well, if a team knows that going with a KRod/Axford sequence in the 8th/9th is going to save $14 million over using an Axford/KRod sequence, I think it's pretty obvious what that team would choose to do.

Jul 14, 2011 01:15 AM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

Isn't the key to the option the 3rd clause, of which I had not heard before: Team doctors give him a clean bill of health after the 2011 season. Unless he hurts his arm that's going to be tough to beat. I think he's staying.

Jul 13, 2011 11:03 AM
rating: 0
 
mrdannyg

He must meet all 3 clauses, not simply any of the 3.

Jul 13, 2011 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
ofMontreal

Oh, well that's different. Thanks for the heads up.

Jul 13, 2011 17:14 PM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

I am curious to see if there is any clubhouse drama associated with this move. If I were K-Rod, I would be pretty upset with this, and I am a mild mannered person who has (so far at least) been able to avoid punching my father-in-law...

Jul 13, 2011 11:08 AM
rating: 4
 
ColonelTom

K-Rod has every reason to be upset with the Mets, but I suspect they had made it clear that (1) they were going to dump him to a team he couldn't block with his limited no-trade, and (2) no team would take him and let that option vest. That's not Milwaukee's fault.

Besides, he's probably not going to end up much worse off - he'll still get $3.5M as a buyout on the team option, and assuming he's healthy and effective, he can probably get another $10M+ a season and perhaps land a better/longer multi-year deal than he would have being a year older after 2012.

Jul 13, 2011 11:35 AM
rating: 2
 
jasemilw4

That's a really good point. I didn't think about it that way. I assumed K-Rod would be fumming over this deal. But really, it's business, and he probably accepts that. Since he's playing for a new contract, he'll have incentive to play very well. If he does amazing, maybe they use him (instead of Axford in Sept/Oct). He might easily land a 10mil a year deal then.

Still, there's always the possiblity that a guy with a "closer's mentality" freaks about this money move and causes disruption in the clubhouse.

Jul 13, 2011 11:46 AM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

He will make 10M+ as a former closer who lost his job mid year? I don't know... I wouldn't be at all surprised if the union will file a complaint if his option is declined.

Jul 13, 2011 11:54 AM
rating: 0
 
John Collins
(110)

Grievance on what grounds?

Jul 13, 2011 12:02 PM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

Was it a baseball move or did the Mets make the trade specifically to avoid the option vesting? If it is the latter, how is this different from just sitting him for the rest of the year?

Jul 13, 2011 12:23 PM
rating: 0
 
ColonelTom

They're getting two PTBNLs, plus getting out from under a $3.5M buyout on the team option. In other words, they're getting something of value back beyond the dump. I doubt an arbitrator will look beyond that into the relative value of prospects versus K-Rod; that's a huge can of worms for evaluating future deals.

Jul 13, 2011 14:13 PM
rating: 0
 
ostrowj1

I am not saying that the union would win in mediation, only that I am sure that the move has caught their attention. The argument being that this sets a dangerous precedence for teams no longer in contention to give away players whose options were in danger of vesting. For instance, what if a few years ago the Tigers traded Magglio Ordonez to , and he spent the remainder of the season pinch hitting- and not letting his option vest in the process? I think the union cares if these trades become commonplace. I also think that baseball will suffer with these entirely sensible moves. Have a starting pitcher with an option you don't want to pick up? Give him to the Phillies. First baseman? He would make a perfect pinch hitter for the Yankees...

(I am assuming in all this that the PTBNL are a bunch of scrubs)

Jul 13, 2011 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
evo34

Here's an idea: if you're a player, don't agree to huge incentives based on counting stats.

Jul 14, 2011 01:11 AM
rating: 1
 
ColonelTom

Other teams know the option situation. I doubt he loses a dime in free agency based on having "lost" the closer's role via trade, given the circumstances.

I can't imagine he has any grounds for a grievance. Milwaukee has a good closer in Axford - there's a good argument that the decision is based on trying to put the best team on the field, not just trying to avoid vesting. If the Mets had yanked an effective K-Rod from the closer's role in September a few GFs short of the option, that's a different story and could be seen as bad faith.

Jul 13, 2011 12:17 PM
rating: 0
 
Charles Kurz

3:30 PM call will tell us who is closing

Jul 13, 2011 11:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Sacramento

I wonder if the Brewers have another move in mind to flip Rodriguez to another team for some kind of goodies?

Jul 13, 2011 18:15 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

I doubt KRod is upset at all. The Mets treated him very well and he knows he'll make good money this winter anyway.

Jul 13, 2011 19:38 PM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

Scott Boras - KRods' new agent - gets to negotiate a new contract/new commission in the off season .... there will be no vest that would generate commission for the old agency

as per the trade - The Brewers Threw in a washing machine ....ELE Everybody Love Everybody

Jul 14, 2011 08:30 AM
rating: 0
 
AWBenkert

Re the PTBNL: In the early 60's, the Mets traded a catcher named Harry Chiti to the Reds for a PTBNL, who turned out to be... Harry Chiti!

Feb 02, 2012 01:50 AM
rating: 0
 
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