Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The K-Rod Trade

It is obvious that K-Rod has put together quite impressive numbers throughout his career*. If K-Rod was acquired to be the primary set-up guy to closer John Axford, I am 100% behind the trade. With Kameron Loe sputtering as the primary set-up guy to closer John Axford, the Brewers needed a better 8th inning option. Unfortunately based on Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin's comments, it looks like the Brewers are going to have dual-closers following the K-Rod trade.

If the Brewers do in fact go with dual-closers I don't like the K-Rod deal for two non-statistical reasons. First, it messes up the pecking order in the bullpen. Second, even though it is not my money, the Brewers took on a big chunk of payroll in the K-Rod trade (reportedly $5 million) so they will probably not be able to take on more money via trade if they want to upgrade the left side of their infield for a playoff run. Let's delve into each of my issues with a deal in more detail:

First, the "closer by committee" strategy never seems to work. For better or worse baseball players are like little children, they need to be fed three time a day and need to live a very structured life. That is even more pronounced in the bullpen because the entire staff is built from the end of the game forward. Until the K-Rod trade everyone in the bullpen knew that John Axford was the closer but now the Brewers have two guys that might end the game. The bullpen seemed like a tight group from an outsiders perspective despite the fact that they struggled through injuries (Hawkins and Saito) and ineffectiveness (Braddock and Loe).

K-Rod's presence as the dual-closer will stunt the growth of the deserving closer John Axford. One way to remedy this situation is to use K-Rod as the primary set-up man and the second option at closer. Most managers bring in their closer in the top of the 9th if the game is tied when they are at home. In those specific spots I would pitch K-Rod as well as all the other standard 8th inning set-up spots. Besides those specific situations just mentioned, I would allow John Axford to stay in the traditional closer role since he has thrived** in that spot since assuming that role once Trevor Hoffman lost his mojo in 2010. Sometimes closers only work in short spurts (Danny Kolb, Solomon Torres, and Derrick Turnbow) but Axford has been very good in his sophomore campaign as closer in 2011*** so I am completely opposed to going closer by committee.

Second, the Brewers will not be able to add any more money to their payroll after adding K-Rod. That means the Brewers are stuck with Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee making up the left side of the infield for the stretch run. The Brewers only have spot starters on the bench in the big leagues (Craig Counsell and Josh Wilson) and no real viable options in the minors (Erick Almonte, Mat Gamel, Andy Gonzalez, Taylor Green, and Edwin Maysonet). That means the Brewers would have to look outside the organization to improve at shortstop or third base. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has added money in the past (i.e. C.C. Sabathia) and it looks like K-Rod is the big moved as opposed to adding the more coveted New York Met...shortstop Jose Reyes.

Quick side note. I saw Gallardo and Greinke pitch in person a few weeks back at Wrigley Field. It just so happened that general manager Doug Melvin and assistant general manager Gord Ash sat in a box above my seats. Following Greinke's start (a loss where Greinke looked absolutely lost on the mound), Melvin (left) and Ash (right) were leaving Wrigley Field as you can see in the picture when a Brewer fan behind me yelled "come on Doug (Melvin) trade for Jose Reyes (shortstop for the New York Mets)". Melvin did a double-take, which actually got me excited. There is a .001% chance that the Brewers go after Reyes now, especially following the Greinke, Marcum, and K-Rod trades. Trading for Reyes at this point would leave me as the top prospect in the Brewers' farm system.

All of the above analysis did not even take into account that K-Rod was involved in a physical altercation in the locker room last year or the fact that he recently hired Scott Boras as his agent. Don't get me wrong, K-Rod deserves to be a closer somewhere in baseball based on his performance in 2011**** just not Milwaukee. I understand teams want to stock pile quality arms but I don't get why Melvin would add an established closer with issues (K-Rod) when you have a young closer with no issues (Axford) to work as dual-closers. Even if the Brewers don't have to give the Mets very good prospects for K-Rod, the trade still doesn't seem worth it unless K-Rod is the set-up man who gets an occasional spot save opportunity when Axford is overworked.

* = 32-27 record, 773 strikeouts in 619 2/3 innings (good for 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings), 2.54 ERA and 291 career saves (129 more than Mariano Rivera at the same age) in 573 relief appearances.

** = Converted roughly 90% of his save opportunities (47 of 52).

*** = In 42 appearances Axford has a 2-2 record, 23 saves and a 2.83 ERA thanks to allowing only 17 walks and 39 hits while striking out 53 batters over 41 1/3 innings.

**** = Converted 23 of 26 save opportunities, 3.16 ERA, and 1.41 WHIP.

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