K-Rod Accepts Arbitration With Brewers

Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers took a calculated gamble by offering Francisco Rodriguez arbitration earlier this offseason. They expected the right-hander to decline arbitration in pursuit of a closer’s role and a multi-year deal elsewhere, and Milwaukee would garner two draft picks in the process.

Teams started snapping up available closers, however, and Rodriguez sat on the sidelines without many available options. The Padres were rumored to be interested at one point, but instead opted to trade for Huston Street. The Mets internally discussed a reunion with their former closer, but settled on Frank Francisco to likely handle the ninth inning.

In the end, too few viable landing spots were available to entice K-Rod to forgo arbitration and gamble on the open market. He accepted the Brewers’ offer of arbitration and will receive a salary somewhere just south of $13.5M — the amount he made in 2011 with the Mets and Brewers — and serve as the set-up man for John Axford.

Milwaukee is now in a tough spot financially. Prior to K-Rod accepting arbitration, their payroll sat around $71M with guaranteed salaries and predicted arbitration, according to Tom Haudricourt. It’s unlikely their payroll will reach the $100M mark for the first time in the history of the franchise — though owner Mark Attanasio has always maintained his payroll is flexible and opportunity-based — so the Brewers have roughly $10-15M to potentially upgrade third base, shortstop, first base, and the remainder of the bullpen.

Milwaukee took the first step in improving their infield conundrum by signing Alex Gonzalez to a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2013. He is essentially the same offensive player as Yuniesky Betancourt — terrible OBP with some power — but he is much better defensively. Though the financials are not yet available, Gonzalez will likely not break the bank and is a nice upgrade in the context of the Brewers’ situation. Obviously, Rafael Furcal would have been nice. The money simply is not there.

Following the same logic, one has to imagine that third baseman Aramis Ramirez is no longer a viable option, as he will probably cost $10M+ per year on a multi-year deal. This will leave the Brewers relying on internal candidates Casey McGehee and Taylor Green — the same combination that was eventually supplanted by Jerry Hairston Jr. in the playoffs due to a lack of production (McGehee) and experience (Green).

Of course, Doug Melvin could clear room in the budget to make room for a free agent signing or two by simply releasing Francisco Rodriguez. Arbitration deals are non-guaranteed, meaning the organization can release the right-hander and only be on the hook for a portion of the contract. Teams are only responsible for one-sixth of a non-guaranteed contract if released prior to the season, which could leave the Brewers on the hook for only $2M (or thereabouts) rather than $9-12M. Any release in Spring Training has to be baseball-related, though, which could be difficult to argue for Milwaukee.

The other option is to trade him. The Atlanta Braves did that with Rafael Soriano two years ago, when they traded Soriano to Tampa in return for the immortal Jesse Chavez. The Red Sox, Astros, Orioles, and Angels could be potential trade partners. A trade is not an attractive option for the Brewers, though, because they would need to either eat the majority of the salary or garner absolutely nothing of significance in return. Not to mention they would simply look to sign a set-up man, anyway.

Most likely, the Brewers keep Francisco Rodriguez to give them the best one-two reliever punch outside of Atlanta. The two both had ERAs under 2.00 and should help the Brewers’ bullpen effectively shorten the game to seven innings. And given the fact that Milwaukee is returning all five starters from a year ago, the team should remain competitive on the strength of their pitching.

With the loss of Prince Fielder and the lack of production from Casey McGehee and Yuniesky Betancourt in 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to focus on upgrading the talent in the infield. Now that Francisco Rodriguez gobbled up the majority of that payroll space and without a stocked farm system to facilitate those upgrades via the trade market, the organization will now have to go bargain-hunting on the free agent market — as they did with Alex Gonzalez — or rely unproven internal candidates.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

29 Responses to “K-Rod Accepts Arbitration With Brewers”

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  1. Perceptron says:

    If they garnered absolutely nothing of significance in return, is that not just the equivalent of not offering arbitration? If Melvin is confident that he can use that money to improve the team more than K-Rod alone could improve it, then why not trade him for nothing? Of course, this also assumes a team will take on that salary in the first place.

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    • B N says:

      $13m for K-Rod at this stage seems steep. I can’t think of a club who would want to take that on, to be honest.

      Hopefully the Brewers can make that argument at the arb hearing, otherwise that’s a big loss. Alternatively, they could try to sign him to a 2 or 3 year deal for less annual cost but higher total cost. Doesn’t look like a win for them in any event…

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      • vivalajeter says:

        They would definitely have to pick up some salary to trade him. If Krod could have received a $13MM offer to close, he wouldn’t have accepted arbitration in the first place. Their best option might be to just release him and eat the $2MM or so, because at the projected salary he’ll be overpaid way more than that.

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    • ezb230 says:

      “If they garnered absolutely nothing of significance in return, is that not just the equivalent of not offering arbitration?”
      sure sounds like it, but they already offered, so door #2 (trading him) is the only way they don’t have to devote more than 10% of their payroll for 60 innings of k-rod. as the author notes, trading him depends on how strictly mlb enforces the “baseball only” clause for this type of deal. if they can deal him for nothing, they should.

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  2. Rogers Hornsby says:

    Brewers need stitches for that bite in the posterior.

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  3. saw111671 says:

    KRod won’t make close to $13MM in arbitration. It will be more likely 9 or 10MM (hopefully less). The article is very accurate and even with KRod accepting, I don’t feel Furcal was a viable option. Too injury prone for his price and not good enough offensively. Definitely a better all around player than Gonzalez, but I’ll take Gonzalez at $2MM over Furcal at $10MM+ any day!

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    • Rey22 says:

      Players almost never get a salary cut in arbitration, unless they were completely injured or horribly ineffective, neither of which describes K-Rod last year.

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      • AA says:

        Ask Mark Loretta about that. Its entirely possible he gets a pay cut, and it isn’t limited to the 85% rule.

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    • Jonathan says:

      He pitched to an ERA in the mid 2’s and he made over $12 million this year. There is no way on earth he actually ends up with a paycut if he goes to arbitration.

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      • Jim Breen says:

        Keep in mind that arbitration for free agency is not (essentially) a guaranteed increase, as it is during the team-control years. Doug Melvin has said that the closer’s market has been set by the $9M given to Heath Bell and feels that K-Rod should earn around $9-12M per year if taken to arbitration. Of course, “should” is not the same thing as “could” when it comes to salaries.

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      • Earl Sweatshirt says:

        @ Jim

        I don’t see the argument. How is Heath Bell’s multi year deal AAV a precedent for an arbitration award? Apples and oranges really. If so, the Red Sox should start pointing to DH salaries…it just isn’t how the system works.

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      • jcxy says:

        @ jim

        this is a great point, but it opens the door to another question–who are some comps? i’m having a tough time thinking a recent example of a guy of krod’s ability hitting arbitration.

        it’s funny to also think that if he ends up with >14 MM for next year, he’ll actually make more than if he reached his 17.5 MM vesting option (which remember was waived in exchange for 3.5 MM). tip of the cap to boras if that happens…

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  4. Paul Wilson says:

    comp: Rafael Soriano, $25M over the next 2 years to set up for the Yankees

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    • placidity says:

      comp: Mike Gonzalez, $12M over the last two years…the next highest paid setup man of recent years

      Soriano has to basically be the max award. $9M, halfway in between he and Gonzalez would still be a lot for a setup guy, but wouldn’t be as crippling and would be more tradeable.

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  5. Earl Sweatshirt says:

    Red Sox and Reds were smart to let this closer market play out, both are in line to get a bargain (relative to the market).

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  6. Shawn says:

    I don’t know where Tom’s getting his numbers. I think http://www.brewcrewball.com/2011/10/21/2505615/2012-payroll-early-estimate is a better estimate, and it has payroll at about $77M.

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    Holy Crap! K-Rod accepted arbitration.

    I thought this was going to be a boring news day in MLB.


    Who knew the best news for the Cardinals came out of Milwaukee?

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  8. YazInLeft8 says:

    I see Boston as a real option for K-Rod by March. What if Lowrie is traded for K-Rod? The Sox get K-Rod to close with Bard in the rotation and while avoiding the huge sums of cash needed to avoid Madson, while also getting rid of a spare piece.

    Is this possible?

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    • Earl Sweatshirt says:

      K-Rod has no trade value at that salary unless they eat some, why would the Red Sox also give up a player of value? Sounds like a poor man’s Vernon Wells trade.

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  9. DrEasy says:

    How about a trade with Toronto? K-Rod for Mark Teahen. Toronto is still apparently looking for a set-up guy, and Mark Teahen is just a dead weight to them while he could be of use for Milwaukee’s infield. Some additional pieces could be added on either side to even out the trade.

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  10. exxrox says:

    If the Jays trade Teahen and the 5.5 million he is owed, and are paying K-Rod roughly 6 million for one year, it’s not the worst stopgap bullpen wise. Except it doesn’t follow AA’s plan long-term (except trade value Krod may have in June) but at least it’s not wasted space like Teahen.

    I would think about it pretty hard, both teams dumping crappy salaries except the useful player has a high salary. I’m not very high on Krod though.

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    • Vince says:

      I’d be in favour of this from Toronto’s perspective.

      Assuming Teahen would have been on the major league roster for next year, he would have taken up a valuable bench spot. The Jays already have 3 of those spots going to Jeff Mathis, Mike McCoy and Rajai Davis.The Jays would have the flexibility to add someone in free agent or open up the roster spot for one of David Cooper, Luis Valbuena or one of Travis Snider/Eric Thames. Oh and K-Rod is probably the best reliever that’s available on the market.

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  11. cs3 says:

    ” the Brewers have roughly $10-15M to potentially upgrade third base, shortstop, first base, and the remainder of the bullpen.”

    if only they had a young, cheap, and extremely talented 3B to plug into the middle of the lineup for the next 5 years

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    • Flavio says:

      I guess that’s the price you pay when you’re no longer willing to have Manny Parra in your rotation for a playoff run.

      Still, a major bummer.

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  12. Joey B says:

    One more option. Agree to a $3M contract instead of going to arbitration, with the unwritten agreement that you’ll cut him the next day. That will leave KRod to seek a 3-year deal elsewhere. If he lands $21M/3, it becomes more like $24M/3 which might be acceptable to him. Costs Mil $3M for nothing rather than $13M for a setup guy.

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  13. Greg K says:

    I went to see the Brewers play the Mets last year at Citi Field and as I was telling my buddy how terrible Betencourt was, he proceeded to hit a monster home run and then make a great defensive diving play. It was very odd to say the least.

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  14. Rome Flood says:

    Money aside, K-Rod still can pitch, over 2 months till spring training. A trade isn’t that unlikely. Perhaps they would have to pay some of his salary, but given the Angels fear of the Dodgers and having Pujols, maybe Trumbo or Callapso could be had.

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