Where Did K-Rod Go Wrong?

MetsToday reader “Andy” sent me this email:

Joe,

I’d love to see your take on the millions of dollars K-Rod lost so that Scott Boras could have his cut on his next contract. Looks like $5.5M less for K-Rod and $800,000 more for Boras, right?

Funny, Francisco Rodriguez became a forgotten entity after the Mets hurried him off to Milwaukee minutes after the All-Star Game in return for two boxes of sunflower seeds and a bag of balls (a.k.a., Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario). Almost immediately upon becoming Brewers property, K-Rod’s brand-new agent Scott Boras did away with the silly $17.5M option that would have vested if the reliever finished 55 games (he finished only 36). We found out later, of course, that K-Rod was looking to get rid of that option even if he remained with the Mets — which didn’t make Sandy Alderson look too good (now we know it was really the Wilpons’ dire financial problems and Mets’ going bankrupt as the real issues … but I digress).

The true motivation behind dropping the option was related to the hiring of Boras, who would not have made a dime until K-Rod signed a new contract. It’s astounding to me that a player would give up a potential $17.5M payday, but my best wild guess is that K-Rod knew all too well the financial issues in Flushing, was 100% certain he’d be jettisoned because of the vesting option, and figured that his best course of action was to get Scott Boras to represent him. Unfortunately for K-Rod, he picked the wrong year to hit the open market — a year when at least ten other closers were looking for work and historically big spenders such as the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers were cutting payroll. In the end, K-Rod surprised the Brewers by accepting arbitration and winding up with a $8M deal — a huge sum for a setup man, but less than half of that $17.5M option.

Did K-Rod do the right thing by signing with Boras and giving up the option? Hard to say, but probably. Sure, without offering to do away with the option, the teams the Mets could have traded him to would have been limited. But as it turned out, they dealt him to a team that used him in a setup role anyway. My bet is that had it not been the Brewers, the Mets could have and would have traded K-Rod to the Red Sox, Yankees, or another contending team that already had a closer if necessary — so the option was likely never going to vest anyway. By offering to give up the option, K-Rod opened up the trade market and cast a wider net for himself in terms of opportunities. In his perfect world, the Mets would have traded him to a team in need of a closer, and he would have shed the option in return for a two-year extension. Winding up as a setup man in Milwaukee was not the ideal situation at time, but right now, it’s not looking all that bad. Consider this: what might K-Rod have commanded on the open market, considering the lack of interest in closers after Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell signed? Many believe that Ryan Madson is a safer and superior choice compared to K-Rod, and all he got was a one-year, $8.5M deal; it could be argued that he’d have received even less if both he and K-Rod were both available.

Bottom line is this: although on the surface it looks terrible that K-Rod lost his obnoxious $17.5M option by getting traded, the reality is, he never was going to get it anyway, and by opting for arbitration, he wound up with more money for one year that he probably would not have been able to get on the open market. And since it’s only a one-year deal, and K-Rod has yet to turn 30, he’ll have his chance to be a free agent again next winter — when there likely will be fewer closers competing for dollars. In other words, he’s in a pretty good place financially, all things considered.

What’s your thought? Could K-Rod have done better had he declined arbitration? Do you think there was a chance he could have finished enough games to earn that pot of gold? Answer in the comments.

11-12 Offseason

About the Author

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.

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