Where Did K-Rod Go Wrong?

MetsToday reader “Andy” sent me this email:


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.

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. Joe January 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm
    It is noted that K-Rod wanted to do away with the option & this makes Sandy look bad.

    Sure, like Bush didn’t want to go to war with Iraq, K-Rod would have liked some solution there but how exactly? It would have still entailed a money, obviously, and still too much for the ownership. The bottom line doesn’t really change there.

    The “return” was a salary dump that cost more than most bags of seeds. Tossed in were two players, one that actually pitched some in September and showed a bit of talent. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he will again see some time in the pen next season.

    As to K-Rod, honestly, I don’t care much, but it sounds like he made a decent calculated risk, even if it didn’t come out totally his way. He signed a typical “Mets bonus” on his contract and didn’t get it all back. He still got more than most people in his position would.

    He came out alright. Papelbon was on a Mets classic last night btw. Charming that Mets fans will see so much more of him. Meanwhile, Bobby V. … well, it’s all so funny, really.

  2. DaveSchneck January 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm
    K-Rod took a risk, and I it is what it is. Judging the Mets and Alderson objectively, it seems like they handled this situation in a manner that did not provide the best result. They essentially got nothing in return (no offense to the two players) and they paid most if not all of KRod’s salary. The clearly could have avoided having him end 55 games, or negotiated a change in the contract prior (like the Brewers). Theoretically he would have prevented 4-5 losses himself, and the Mets would have finished with 81-82 wins. had they offered arbitration, they could have gotten either a type B pick or K-Rod on a 1 year deal around $8 mil. Yes, it’s monday morning QBing, but Alderson gets a C at best on this issue.
    • Joe January 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm
      I’ll assume you are talking to Joe Janish here but to respond myself.

      Again, I find myself confused since assumptions are made that don’t seem to be backed up. Is there some evidence what exactly K-Rod wanted the Mets to give him in return for renegotiation? It clearly would be SOMETHING.

      So, I simply don’t know how much money the Mets lost in doing things their way. The theoretical wins is balanced against testing a possible new closer, which long term to me seems more important.

      The Mets didn’t want to give K-Rod a 8M deal & he had worn out his welcome by that point. A type B pick is not really that exciting and the chances it would be better than the two players, one who showed some ability to immediately play in the bigs, thus a possible spare part for various teams, is again unclear to me.

      So, objectively speaking, putting aside that many here are no fan of Alderson, and noting he (this to me is the mistaken assumption of many comments) does not have total free range here, the C “at best” rating is unsubstantiated.

      It might be on balance right, I don’t know, but given the info present, I just don’t see it. I’m not trying to write an apologia for the guy. It’s just my objective opinion.

  3. Glenn January 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm
    This article suffers from the Angry Eyes Syndrome. That’s when you’re so mad at someone that you can see anything they do in a positive light.

    Even K-Rod wanted to drop the option, he wasn’t going to do it for free. He only did it for the Brewers because he got something for it: a chance to go to a contender. If he doesn’t I doubt ANY team would’ve picked him up for the same reason the Mets didn’t want him: 17.5 mil is too much for ANY closer, let alone K-Rod. Not even as a set-up man would I have wanted him. Your closer gets injured and now you got to use him and WHAM there’s that pesky option. In fact the Brewers only offered K-Rod arbitration to get a draft pick and were probably not happy he accepted. 8m is way too much for a set up man but the Brewers were stuck because in arbitration you are judged by what you did, not what you will do.

    Alderson did well to get rid of K-Rod regardless of price. He would’ve cost too much at 17m or 8m or even 5m and I’m sure the fact he punched out his baby’s mama’s dad had to factor in that as well.

    People are funny. When they want a player gone they claim that player is worthless but then they get angry when they don’t get a king’s ransom for that same worthless player..

  4. Frank January 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm
    I think it works out for both the Brewers & K-Rod. Although right now it’s high pay for a set up man the Brewers can use him as trade bait for a team in need of a closer. That’s also good for K-Rod cause if he performs again as a closer he goes to free agency looking to make big bucks in a longer term contract. They only negative to both sides is he doesn’t perform & the Brewers and he are stuck with each other all year.
  5. DaveSchneck January 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm
    Joe J, Joe, and Glenn all have valid points. After KRod’s conduct I’m not shedding any tears on his departure. Alderson avoided an insane option for 2012, which is good. Speculating, he could have kept KRod and done that either by renegotiating or/and getting a look at Parnell later in the year. This also could have lead to more wins in 2011. I’m just saying Alderson did okay on this, and my recollection is that the move was somewhat overrated from the Met perspective at the time.
  6. Josh Z January 18, 2012 at 9:48 pm
    well he would have finished enough games i mean who else would the mets send out, Parnel? Oh wait…
  7. Andy January 20, 2012 at 10:55 pm
    At the risk of unveiling my angry eyes, winning wasn’t why he “agreed” to go to Milwaukee. He had no choice in the matter. If I had “Angry Eyes”, I’d say something like, “The only things K-Rod cares if he wins are family fights and court appeals.” But I don’t, I just think K-Rod got abused by Boras, who thought he’d get a huge Ryan Madsen, oops, I mean Jonathan Papelbon deal.

    Also, has anyone ever agreed to such a decrease in pay ahead of arbitration? I don’t recall anyone going into arbitration and not getting a raise. Is this Boras trying to make K-Rod more tradable so he can become a closer again and get that fat deal?