Friday, August 10, 2018

Goodbye, Rodney

The Twins moved Fernando Rodney to the Oakland A's in a waiver deal Thursday.

As with the Brian Dozier trade earlier, I don't particularly care for it. The Twins could have kept Rodney; they had a reasonably priced option on him for 2019, and while The Fernando Rodney Experience can be difficult to watch, they have no obvious successor to him for the closer role.

And the significant thing about not having an obvious closer candidate is that it makes organizing the rest of the bullpen more complicated. 

This is Paul Molitor's fourth season as manager. It is the fourth season in which he has had to change his closer in midseason. 

2015: Glen Perkins (injury) gave way to Kevin Jepsen
2016: Perkins (injury continued) gave way in the first week to Jepsen (ineffective), who was released and succeeded by Brandon Kintzler
2017: Kintzler (traded) gave way to Matt Belisle
2018: Rodney (traded) followed by ...

So Molitor's been through this before. Off his track record, I would expect him to prefer somebody who
  • is a 30-something veteran
  • throws strikes and
  • has never held the closers role before.

The closest thing to that template on the current roster might be Matt Magill, who is 28, has zero career saves and has walked just two men per nine innings since his callup. Another possibility would be Trevor May, who has had a fraction of Magill's innings as he forges his way back from Tommy John surgery. He's also 28.

Of course, Molitor could discard that template and try one of the younger arms. Gabriel Moya has a pretty impressive minor league record as a closer. So does Trevor Hildenberger, who is slumping. Molitor seems to have regained faith in Taylor Rogers, and there are power arms in the minors (Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss) who could tolerate a sustained opportunity. Another possibility, one that would really shatter the Molitor mold: Fernando Romero.

I really have no clue what Molitor will do. And just to further complicate this, there are rumblings that the Twins may soon adopt the "opener" strategy deployed this season by Tampa Bay.

Dakota Chambers, the arm the Twins got in the trade, is a really high-risk acquisition. He  pitched all of five innings this season (low-A Beloit) before having Tommy John surgery. He had no history of success before the surgery, largely because he has never thrown strikes with any consistency. When I say I don't care for this trade, it's because it is exceedingly unlikely that Chambers will ever reach Double A, much less the majors. 

As for Rodney and the A's: Oakland appears to be following the Kansas City Royals model of 2014-15 and stacking up power arm relievers. Blake Treinen is at the top of that food chain (0.93 ERA with 29 saves and one homer allowed in 58 innings), with Lou Trivino (1.29 ERA) behind him, joined now by Rodney, former Mets closer Jeurys Familia (2.31 ERA, 17 saves before his trade to Oakland) and Shawn Kelley, formerly of the Nationals (3.27 ERA this season).

Rodney's not likely to get to fire a lot of metaphoric arrows the rest of the way, but he's now part of a bullpen of extraordinary depth and quality.

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