Following the signing of Alexei Ramirez last Thursday, the Padres have officially signed yet another veteran to fill another hole. Fernando Rodney has agreed to a deal with the Padres that will likely see him be the favorite to close games in San Diego next season. The deal is a one year pact with a base salary of $1.6 million, including $5 million in annual incentives and a club option for 2017, worth $2 million as well as a $400,000 buyout for that second year. Rodney’s earnings can go as high as $18.6 million over the two years if all the incentives kick in. With the trades of both Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, and the move of Brandon Maurer to the starting rotation, the back end of the Padres bullpen was a bigger question mark than it was last season. Now the Padres look to have Rodney set up to be the closer through at least 2016.
Coming off perhaps the most frustrating year of his entire career, Rodney is looking for a rebound with a Padres team that is likely not a serious contender. In 2015, Rodney got off a terrible start with the Seattle Mariners, getting designated for assignment in August prior to a trade to the Chicago Cubs. In his five months with the Mariners, Rodney had only one month with an ERA below 3.00 and four months with an ERA above 5.00, including one month with an ERA over 8.00. To say Rodney was bad last year is a bit of an understatement.
However, following the trade to Chicago, Rodney regained some of his prior form. Rodney finished September/October with an ERA of 0.90 in 10 innings, earning himself a spot on the Cubs playoff roster. In total with the Cubs, Rodney gave up only one earned run in 12 total innings with the team, striking out 15 batters while only walking four. While his early season performance is somewhat of a concern, the Padres are banking on Rodney building off a strong stint with the Cubs.
Despite a rollercoaster career filled with ups and downs, Rodney has been a consistent big league reliever since his first appearance in the big leagues in 2002. Even with his poor performance in Seattle in 2015, Rodney still had a strong four year stretch prior to that. Over the last four seasons, he has pitched to a 2.80 ERA, including a sub-1.00 ERA in 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rays and a sub-3.00 ERA in 2014 with the Seattle Mariners.
In 2015, Rodney’s peripherals weren’t too far off from his career numbers despite his struggles. The only real differences for Rodney were that he was walking more guys than in his successful 2012 and 2014 seasons and also striking out a few less batter per nine innings, all while giving up a large increase in home runs. However, Rodney had similar ground ball numbers, showing that at least some of his bad performance was fluky. Fly ball/home run rates are a bit of a fluky measure on their own, so Rodney can expect some regression back to his usual in 2016. Steamer projects a good deal of improvement for Rodney in 2016, projecting him for a 3.64 ERA and a 3.69 FIP as well as an increase in his K/9 and decreases in both BB/9 and HR/9.
At the end of the day, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Padres. Despite Rodney’s 2015 struggles, and his ever increasing age, the Padres got a cheap option for the back of their bullpen who could be better than expected in 2016. Rodney also will provide a strong veteran presence in a bullpen that is now dominated by young arms and filled with quite a bit of uncertainty. It may only be a small increase, but Fernando Rodney makes the Padres bullpen at least a little bit better for the 2016 season.