Will White Sox Want K-Rod?

Yesterday was the non-tendering deadline, and as a result one of the biggest names to hit the free-agent market was White Sox closer Bobby Jenks.

This leaves the ChiSox without a legitimate 9th-inning man, since J.J. Putz is also a free agent.

The White Sox also have signed Adam Dunn to a 4-year deal, and re-signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski. It is also rumored that they will find a way to bring Paul Konerko back. Looking at these moves, and their heavily veteran roster, this team is built to win now — and GM Kenny Williams seems intent on improving upon last year’s 88-74 record by providing Ozzie Guillen with all the talent he needs.

It seems like an ideal situation for Francisco Rodriguez.

First, K-Rod will return to a club positioned for the postseason — an environment to which he is most accustomed. Second, he would pitch under fellow Venezuela countryman Ozzie Guillen, who also happens to share a similarly passionate personality; the two would appear to be made for each other. Third, with the White Sox gunning for the playoffs and in need of a closer to get there, a reliever with K-Rod’s resume is a no-brainer.

From K-Rod’s perspective, a move back to the AL and far away from New York would be a good way to make a fresh start; physically distancing himself from the place where he assaulted his father-in-law would help in emotionally distancing himself from the ordeal. Although the Chicago media is no cakewalk, it certainly would be less of a pressure cooker than New York. More importantly, the media and fans of Chicago are likely to be more forgiving and accepting of Rodriguez — again, because of distance from the situation but also because he is a player the team genuinely needs. In contrast, the Mets do not necessarily “need” a veteran closer pitching for his next contract during their rebuilding phase — they need to audition young arms for the role while looking toward 2012 – 2013.

The only obstacle to a trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the White Sox would be financial; K-Rod carries with him a hefty $11.5M salary in 2011 and a fairly reachable vesting option that would guarantee him another year at an obnoxious $17.5M (he would need to finish at least 55 games in 2011 for the option to vest). Considering that the White Sox cut Jenks loose because he was in line for at least a $9M contract via arbitration, K-Rod’s $11.5M might be too rich. Unless, they value K-Rod much, much more highly than they do Jenks — which is possible. My guess, though, is that for the White Sox to acquire Rodriguez, either he would have to agree to renegotiate his deal, and/or the Mets would have to eat at least half of the contract.

You know what? That’s not an unrealistic possibility. The Mets are motivated to move K-Rod — even if they won’t say so publicly — the White Sox would love an elite closer, and K-Rod really, really needs to escape New York. It will take some creativity and concessions on all sides, but in the end it would be a win-win-win.

Tell me you can’t envision a public media love fest between Guillen and Rodriguez immediately after such a trade took place.

What do you think? Can you see the Mets moving K-Rod? Can you see the White Sox wanting him? Is there a way such a deal can happen? Who would you target in return?

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Rotoprofessor December 3, 2010 at 6:48 am
    I think the Mets would love to move him, but I don’t see it being to Chicago. Matt Thornton, while he doesn’t have much experience closing games, has that Billy Wagner thing going.

    He was 8-for-10 in saves in 2010 with a K/9 of 12.0. He’s posted double-digit K/9s each of the past three seasons, while having a BB/9 below 3.0 over that same span. Hard to imagine seeing the White Sox spending on a ton on K-Rod when they have him to step in. It’s more likely they use those savings for Konerko and a SP I would think.

  2. Nick December 3, 2010 at 10:29 am
    Of the three guys that people say are must moves this year (Castillo, Beltran, Rodriguez) I think K-Rod is the one that absolutely HAS to go. His clubhouse explosion was the masthead for another terrible season in 2010, and his contract represents the worst excesses of the previous regime.

    Chicago could be a good fit. Rotoprof is correct that they have Matt Thorton, but he may be more valuable in a setup role. See Joe Posnanski’s great article on the value of closers from a few weeks back: http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/11/age-of-setup-man.html. Also, we all know there’s nothing Kenny Williams likes more than a splashy deal.

    So, lets say we pick up half K-Rods contract. That’s 5+MM this year and a likely another 8.5 in 2011. That’s a pretty steep price to get rid of a problem player, even for a major market team. When you add that on top of what we’ve got to eat for Castillo and Perez next year its probably too much.

    But, what can we get in return? A premier closer at a 50% discount seems to be worth at least 1 blue chip prospect:

    Chris Sale pitched great at the end of the year at closer, and though Chicago may try and project him as a starter he might also be expendable with the addition of K-Rod.

    Daniel Hudson made some good strides last year in the minors, even though he got lit up in the majors. A young prospect might be a good choice to fill one of the two open slots in the rotation.

    Finally, the biggest and most intriguing stretch. Rumor had it earlier in the off season that 2B Gordon Beckham was on the block. Beckham had an atrocious 2010, and an underwhelming 2009, but he comes with a major pedigree. Perhaps a change of scenery is in order? Perhaps the now contending White Sox would even welcome a veteran presence at 2b. Maybe we throw in Luis Castillo?

    Dream On….

    • Joe Janish December 5, 2010 at 1:28 am
      Nick, great feedback, thanks. I’d love to see Beckham come back to NY but it seems like a pipe dream.

      Thanks also for the Posnanski article — I have long enjoyed his blog. And though I do agree that the setup man is much more important than people realize, that particular article doesn’t help me believe the idea that setup men are more valuable than closers. It insinuates that the Mets would win 92-95% of the games they’re winning going into the ninth if Oliver Perez was the closer, and that’s simply not true.

      Further, it glazes over the fact that there can be a significant difference between blowing 0-5% of games in the ninth compared to 5-10%; it could be the difference between winning 85 games or 92, depending on how many games the team has a lead in going into the ninth (and how large that lead is). You just can’t take general stats accumulated by all of MLB and apply them to an individual team — unless you’re playing Strat-O-Matic.

  3. Mike Mull December 3, 2010 at 10:48 am
    Most of these moves we all want to happen would most likely take place at the deadline in my opinion…K-Rod sometimes to us is worth dirt (his whole assault situation). Maybe K-Rod for Edwin Jackson and a mid level prospect? Or K-Rod for a to prospect and lower level prospect? Dreamin’
  4. Dunbummin December 4, 2010 at 11:54 am
    I can’t see this happening at all. Without K-Rod the Mets do not have a legitimate 9th inning man, and no real prospect of acquiring one. If, as Sandy and Terry say, they want the Mets to be able to be in the mix this year, they absolutely need a closer type reliever. With Takahashi gone, there really is no one that could be relied upon. Not Parnell, not Mejia, nada. And there is zero probability that a closer quality reliever can be signed from the FA market within Sandy’s budgetary constraints. So, fuhgeddaboudit!
    • Joe Janish December 5, 2010 at 12:14 am
      Sandy will try to put a competitive team on the field but it is not his ultimate goal; his focus is more long-term. So if moving K-Rod will make the team better two to three years from now, he’ll do it even if it means weakening the team’s chances in 2011.

      Also, Sandy and his saberbuddies in the front office don’t value closers the way most other people do. They believe it makes more sense to find a lower-cost pitcher who can be turned into a closer; I’m not sure I disagree.

  5. Kevin F December 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm
    Daniel Hudson went from the Sox to DBacks in the Edwin Jackson trade…KRod for Edwin Jackson and a mid-level prospect? You are dreaming!!!! KRod alone couldn’t acquire Edwin Jackson..Maybe KRod and Mets eating 1/2 of his salary for a mid-level prospect.