In a surprising move, the Tampa Bay Rays have swooped in to sign right handed reliever Fernando Rodney. The deal gives Rodney $1.75M in 2012 with a $2.5M club option for 2013 or a $250K buyout. While it’s a short term commitment for very little money, it’s interesting that the Rays would sign Rodney. He’s coming off a season with the Los Angeles Angels where he went 3-5 with 3 saves, a 4.50 ERA and more walks (28) than strikeouts (26). His one redeeming quality is his outstanding groundball rate, which was 58.4%. For his career it’s been closer to 50%, but with defenders like Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and potentially Reid Brignac, it’s possible the Rays think they can get some value out of Rodney.
It’s an interesting theory, especially for a guy with a high walk rate like Rodney. If he can cut the walk rates back to his career rate (4.9BB/9), he may have some value. It’s possible that the Rays believe that the high groundball rate will lead to more double plays, which will neutralize the damage of putting so many base runners on.
Rodney hasn’t had a sub 4.00 ERA since 2006, meaning that he’s been below the league average ERA for 3 of the past 5 seasons. He isn’t likely to close or set up for the Rays, so he’ll likely pitch in the 6th or 7th innings to start. If Rodney can cut down on the walks and become a more reliable reliever, then the Rays might give him an opportunity to set up for Kyle Farnsworth.
The signing of Rodney gives the Rays a significant number of options for the bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee are likely guaranteed a spot, while Brandon Gomes, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos and Alexander Torres could conceivably fight for a spot along with Fernando Rodney.