Not a fan of Fernando Rodney becoming the new Angel closer? Neither am I, but I’m here to tell you that you better get used to the idea, because Rodney probably isn’t vacating the role anytime soon.
Like it or not, this is your new closer for the foreseeable future.
Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to closers, I like mine to have a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate. So, I’m sure you can understand why it is I am not at all a fan of the idea of Fernando Rodney being tabbed as the new Angel closer. Despite his impressive fastball velocity and killer changeup, Rodney is watching his strikeout rate (6.37 K/9) decline for the second season in a row while his alarming walk rate (4.7 BB/9) remain unsettling steady. To the untrained eye, Fernando looks like nothing more than an average middle reliever, at best.
But Mike Scioscia’s well-trained (and possibly myopic and astigmatism affected) eye sees it differently and that is all that matters. While some might want the steadily evolving Kevin Jepsen and hordes of others are clamoring for Jordan Walden and his triple-digit heater to get the job, Scioscia quickly and decisively promoted Rodney over those two youngsters and based on his history, he isn’t likely to change his mind this year or even next.
While Sosh has no qualms about shaking up his batting order on an almost daily basis (110 different lineups this season… and counting), when it comes to bullpen roles, he couldn’t possibly be more adverse to change. We all know far too well how stubborn he was about removing Fuentes from the closer job even when Tito was at the depth of his struggles. We’ve even seen glimpses this season of how he has tried to force feed Scot Shields (remember him?) back into a setup role, simply because that was his old job, rapidly decaying talents be damned! Or we could go even further back and reminisce about Scioscia keeping Troy Percival firmly entrenched at closer over the then dominant K-Rod, even though Percy had become rather shaky as a result of arm problems.
You see, basing personnel decisions on talent and performance alone might make sense to us mere mortals, but the great and mighty Scioscia knows better. For Manager Mike, age and experience trumps all. Fernando Rodney may walk the tightrope in nearly every appearance due to his deep-seeded fear of throwing strikes, but he also is the elder statesman in the pen (outside of Shields) and also has a career total of 78 saves. Forget about his career 4.22 ERA and long track record of inconsistency, those 78 saves are all Scioscia needs. So, unless Jepsen or Walden plan on aging ten years and/or closing a game every single night in adult beer league softball over the course the off-season, Rodney is going to be Angels’ closer and there isn’t likely to be much debate (at least internally) over the topic.
One chance for closer salvation for Angel fans might be for the Angels to find a closer upgrade on the free agent market this off-season. I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath for that to happen though considering the way the free agent market is laying out for the Angels. As it stands right now, the Halos are looking at carrying a payroll as high as $110 million into the off-season (factoring in likely arbitration awards). That leaves precious little room for them to maneuver financially in an off-season where they are fully expected to make a play for Carl Crawford and any other bat that can revive their anemic offense. That leaves approximately zero dollars for Tony Reagins to spend on a closer.
Frankly, I’m not sure I want him to anyway. His last attempt at doing so is what got the Angels stuck with an overpriced Brian Fuentes in the first place and the thin closer market, in which Fuentes might actually be the second-best closer available, will only position Reagins to make the same mistake all over again. Do you really feel comfortable with the Angels throwing big money at Rafael Soriano? Yeah, I didn’t think so and I don’t think Tony Reagins thinks so either.
The last bastion of non-Rodney hope then is in the trade waters. Acquiring a closer via trade is never easy, but at least the Angels might have better options here. Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria are two names that might be available in trade talks this winter and the Angels will more than likely want to discuss. Those conversations are sure to be short-lived though. I can’t imagine anyone in the Angel front office is going to be too comfortable making a deal with the hated Red Sox and, as for Soria, the Royals are going to ask for a king’s ransom that will almost definitely be more than the Angels are capable, much less willing, to pay.
No matter what angle you look at it from, all roads seem to lead to Fernando Rodney as the Angel closer through the 2011 season. I don’t like it. You don’t like. Fernando Rodney probably doesn’t even like it. But it is what it is and we are all just going to have to suck it up and deal with it because it isn’t going to change anytime soon.