Mets Close to Signing Francisco Rodriguez to a 3-Year Deal

Francisco Rodriguez

Francisco Rodriguez entered the winter dreaming of a five-year, $75 million contract. Then he woke up.

In the real world, billionaire team owners have watched their portfolios shrink in the economic crisis, and if they're taking a hit, well, the millions of fans who attend games every summer certainly won't have as much disposable income to throw at expensive box seats and $9 beers.

And when you combine the financial crunch that everyone's feeling to a free agent and trade market saturated with closers, any chance of K-Rod signing a five-year blockbuster all but vanished.

His asking price of $15 million a year was based on Mariano Rivera's contract last winter, but it seems like he's going to fall short of that, too, as multiplereportsindicate that he's on the verge of accepting a three-year, $37 million deal with the Mets.

All in all, it's not a bad deal -- I'll never feel sorry for someone making "just" $37 million -- but for that price I can't help but wonder if he could have stayed in Los Angeles by signing last year. The Angels offered him a three-year, $34 million deal last winter, but he opted to take arbitration. By the time the 2008 season ended, the Angels had different priorities; namely, convincing Mark Teixeira not to leave.

Even if he doesn't top Rivera's contract, he still has a chance to become the second-highest paid reliever in the game. Right now that honor belongs to Brad Lidge, who signed a three-year, $37.5 million extension, followed by Joe Nathan, who signed a three-year deal this past spring, and Francisco Cordero, who signed a four-year, $46 million deal with the Reds last winter.

Ironically enough, the fourth-highest paid reliever is the man K-Rod is replacing: Billy Wagner, who will earn $10.5 million while "rehabbing" from surgery before most likely retiring in 2010.

Shouldn't Wagner's injury serve as a warning for investing this much money into another reliever? I don't think so. For one, Wagner was 34 when he arrived in New York, so the Mets knew they were paying for his twilight years. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is still only 26 years old, so there's a chance the best has yet to come. Plus, few pitchers come with a history of success in the playoffs like Rodriguez; he hasn't had a chance to make an impact the last couple of years, but he made his name as a rookie with ice water in his veins while helping the Angels win the World Series in 2002.

Few closers have been as consistent as K-Rod the last several years. In addition to setting the record with 62 saves this season, he's saved at least 40 games each of the last four years. Just to put that in perspective, the Mets have had a closer save 40 games in a season just three times in franchise history.

Is saving your best reliever for the ninth inning a wise decision? That's a debate for another time, but the fact of the matter is that Rodriguez thrives in that role. The Mets will be throwing their dollars away if they don't fill out the rest of their bullpen with guys who can hold the lead (they were third in the majors with 29 blown saves last year) but getting someone like Rodriguez shortens the game.

Mets Close to Signing Francisco Rodriguez to a 3-Year Deal originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Tue, 09 Dec 2008 12:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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