Mets send Frankie, cash to Brewers
Club acquires two players to be named in trade
PHOENIX -- In the end, an unwieldy contract option produced an inevitable result. The Mets traded closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash to the Brewers late Tuesday night in exchange for two Minor League players to be named.
"We thank Frankie for his contributions to the Mets and wish him well with the Brewers," general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement released shortly after midnight ET. "This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief as well."
The Mets will chose their players to be named from a list of five Brewers Minor Leaguers by a date in September.
"From my standpoint, this certainly does not signify a change in direction from our continued attempt to win games this season," Alderson said on Wednesday. "One could view this as a slight impediment, but at the same time it really should not signal any significant change in direction. ... We're obviously in a delicate part of the season where wins and losses might dictate what we do. I certainly wouldn't draw any conclusions from this transaction."Rodriguez, 29, is in the final season of a three-year, $37 million contract, but holds a $17.5 million option for 2012 that vests if he finishes 55 games. Since taking over as GM, Alderson has often referred to the option as prohibitively expensive, alluding to Rodriguez as a player likely to be traded.
Dealing him to Milwaukee frees the Mets of that responsibility.
In a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he intends to use both current closer John Axford and Rodriguez in save situations, and both in setup situations. The reason is twofold; Axford has been exceedingly successful since taking over Milwaukee's closer role last May, and Rodriguez becomes exceedingly expensive if he finishes 21 more games this season and kicks in a $17.5 million option for 2012. If he falls short of that total, the Brewers can buy out Rodriguez's option for $3.5 million."The way we view it is an opportunity to get a quality guy in the back end of the bullpen," Brewers GM Doug Melvin said on Tuesday. "I would have been kicking myself if I had walked away from him and a couple of weeks from now, one of our bullpen guys broke down. It was an opportunity to acquire a guy of quality."
Though the specific terms have not been released by the clubs, several outlets are reporting the Mets sent around $5 million to the Brewers, roughly covering what Rodriguez is due for the remainder of the season.
Converting 19 consecutive saves from April 9 through June 14, Rodriguez had been the Mets' most consistent reliever, posting a 3.16 ERA and striking out 46 batters in 42 2/3 innings. He is 23-for-26 in save chances this season, amassing 83 saves with a 3.05 ERA since signing with the Mets prior to the 2009 season.
"Some things are available early in July that might not be available late in July," Alderson said. "There were a number of relievers that were being mentioned as possible trade candidates over the next few weeks. One of the things that we had to take into account was whether the market with those added possibilities was better for us or whether we were better off trying to do something before those other reliever possibilities came into play. From that standpoint, we felt it was better to do something earlier rather than later." Though rumors have swirled surrounding the Mets since last winter, their strong play of late has forced Alderson to reconsider potential trades. The GM has said often in recent weeks that he has no plans to trade All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, while offering no such guarantees for Rodriguez or outfielder Carlos Beltran.
As a result, Beltran spent much of his time at this week's All-Star festivities answering questions about the future.
"I hope we continue to play good baseball," Beltran said Tuesday, departing Chase Field several hours before the trade news broke. "But at the same time, I understand if the team starts not playing good baseball, something might happen -- not only with me, but with a few other guys like Francisco."
Beltran and fellow All-Star Reyes both left Chase Field before the end of Tuesday's game.
"Carlos' situation is well-known to all teams and not surprisingly, given his situation as well as his performance this year, there's been a lot of interest expressed," Alderson said. "We have not pursued that interest at any great length at this point. Rather, we have been focused on our play on the field.
"I'd love to see Carlos with us as we continue this run. ... I do want to make it clear that the Rodriguez trade should not signal anything to anyone about Beltran. I think far more important in that situation will be realistically how we play over the next two weeks, three weeks as the season develops."In Rodriguez's absence, the Mets have multiple candidates to fill their closer role. Bobby Parnell is the obvious choice, improving significantly since returning from the disabled list with numbness in his right hand. Parnell has shared those responsibilities primarily with Jason Isringhausen, a 38-year-old former closer who is also a candidate to be traded.
The Mets have not announced a move to fill Rodriguez's roster spot.
"This trade has an immediate impact on the opportunities that other players have," Alderson said. "It gives us a chance to look at how we will allocate salary for next year. Some of the savings that we will achieve this year on his salary have been and will be invested in new talent acquisition, amateur talent. At a variety of different levels, both at the Major League level as well as player development, this will have some impact. Anytime you have additional flexibility, I think it's a positive."
For the Brewers, the trade brought significantly more initial excitement. Minutes after winning the All-Star Game MVP Award, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder called the deal "awesome."
"As a player, you appreciate it, because you're going out there every day and you're wanting to win," Fielder said. "When management does things like that, you appreciate it, because you see that they're going for it with you every day, too. They're trying their best to help as much as they can."
Fielder's All-Star teammate, Rickie Weeks, concurred.
"That's going to help us," Weeks said. "The biggest thing for us, of course, is that pitching and defense wins championships. To add a pitcher like that, it's going to help."