Big night for the Brew Crew. Not long after 1B Prince Fielder was announced as World Series MVP, the team announced they had acquired reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets. Rodriguez, in the final year of a three year, $39M contract, had been the object of rumors in recent weeks connected him with just about every contender. The move the Brewers comes as a bit of a surprise, though, as it was expected Milwaukee may look to upgrade the left side of their infield. Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt have combined for -2.0 WAR so far in 2011, and the Brewers already traded much of their minor league talent in their offseason deal for Zack Greinke.
The Brewers were actually able to acquire Rodriguez for only "players to be named later." I'm sure the Mets have their eyes on someone, but for now, the Brewers are free to continue their search with the same available talent - they've upgraded their team at little cost. No matter what one thinks of Rodriguez being overrated, and his off the field issues, he improves the Brewers on paper - his 3.16 ERA is the second worst of his career. In nine seasons, he has posted an ERA above 3.00 only three times. The always-maligned Brewers bullpen leads the NL with 20 bullpen losses. They rank 10th in bullpen ERA with a 3.92, and only two pitchers with an ERA under 4.00: closer John Axford (2.83) and ancient LaTroy Hawkins (1.08). Hawkins had an 8.31 ERA last year, and a 2.13 ERA in 2009, and I believe he was a teammate of Satchel Paige back in the '50's. So, needless to say, he might not be someone to depend on. Rodriguez is pitching for his next contract, so, even if used in a setup role, one has to believe the effort will be there. I would have already considered the Brewers the slight favorites in the NL Central, so this certainly doesn't hurt that.
The Brewers do need to get serious about better production from the left side of their infield. McGehee was a quality player in 2009 and 2010, so waiting for him to come around seems sensible. Betancourt, though? He's been one of the worst players in the league for years. In this space I asked six months ago whether he was the best the Brewers could do. (Through blogger, I'm able to see what posts get the most hits - that entry is the only one not posted in the past two months that is in my top 10 for the past 30 days). The question still stands, but only because he continues to get playing time - he is arguably having his worst season. While trying to work out a deal to upgrade, they might be better off going with minor league veteran Edwin Maysonet, currently .276/.325/.350 at AAA Nashville, with a nice looking 5.23 range factor. I don't even particularly care for range factor, but goodness - at least see if he can do something positive.
As far as the Mets' side of the move, I was a little surprised at first to see Rodriguez moved for so little (we think- maybe the PTBNL is better than the usual variety). The more I thought about it though, his standing as a Type A free agent is negated by the fact that there was zero chance New York offered him arbitration. Also, while the Mets are a game over .500, I doubt Sandy Alderson will be fooled into thinking they are legitimate contenders. If this was the best offer he could get, it was time to make the move.
For the rest of 2011, Bobby Parnell or Jason Isringhausen will likely be moved into the "closer" role - my guess is that it will be Isringhausen, since letting Parnell get saves will push the salary he can gain in arbitration skyward. Since he can do just as much to help them win games in the 7th and 8th innings, it makes sense to keep him in that role.