Friday, April 25, 2008

Francisco Rodriguez has 10 saves thus far in 2008

By Eric Denton, Angels Senior Writer

With apologies to The Clash, this is probably the biggest dilemma facing Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels this off-season.

The 27-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. Since coming up as an unknown at the end of the 2002 season and turning into a playoff phenomenon, taking the closer role from Troy Percival in 2005, Rodriguez has been one of the best closers in baseball. He leads the league with 132 saves between 2002-07.

But the question is: how much money do you commit to a closer? Rodriguez will be looking for at least $10 million a season, or more, for around four years.

Is Rodriguez going to be the next Mariano Rivera or the next of so many closers, who dominate for a few seasons then end up with an injury, becoming a shell of his former self?

In the Angels favor is his age — at 27, Rodriguez should have at least three or four more quality seasons in the tank. Contending teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox are already set for the next few years with their closers. And the Angels have potential replacements with Scot Shields, Justin Speier and minor leaguer Jose Arredondo. So, it’s possible they could let Frankie walk like they have with other free agents of the past such as Jarrod Washburn and Adam Kennedy.

In Rodriguez’s favor is, again, his age, and that with Joe Nathan signing an extension with the Minnesota Twins, Rodriguez will be the premier relief pitcher on the market. Possible destinations could be the New York Mets, where Billy Wagner is coming to the end of his four-year contract, or maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers, who employ the 38-year-old Takashi Saito.

The key reason for the Angels and Rodriguez to continue their relationship, in my opinion, is they are good for each other. Rodriguez is a homemade star and should be rewarded as such. If the club has the money to sign outfielders Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter, they have the cash to sign Rodriguez.

Rodriguez thrives off the crowd in Anaheim. He also doesn’t face the pressure from the media that he would if he were to pitch for, say, the Mets. The fans and media are forgiving of a few “nervous saves” as long as the Halo is shining at the end of the game.

Most importantly, if Rodriguez stays with the club, the bullpen remains deep, with Shields and Speier remaining in their set-up roles. K-Rod dominates the Yankees and Red Sox (the ending of Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS notwithstanding). If the Angels are to win another World Series title they will need every weapon they can deploy.

Angels management should bite the bullet, so to speak, and get the deal done.

Vote either way on our community forum whether you think the Angels should sign him to a long term contract or not here
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