On the surface, the Francisco Rodriguez incident seems utterly disastrous for the New York Mets franchise. After a season which started out with playoff possibilities has fallen to below .500 and 10 games out of the NL East in August, the Mets’ problems only appeared to be compounded by losing their closer Francisco Rodriguez, first to a suspension following the now-infamous father-in-law punch-out incident.
Despite the black mark it may put on the organization, this whole incident may turn out to be a major financial boon for the Mets. Thanks to the torn ligament in Rodriguez’s hand resulting from the fight, the Mets may attempt to void the remainder of Rodriguez’s contract, which calls for a guaranteed $15 million and another $14M if Rodriguez’s 2012 option were to vest. That’s quite the cost for a reliever whose FIP over the past three years barely ranks in the top 20 and hasn’t posted a 2.5 WAR season since 2006. That doesn’t mean that Rodriguez isn’t a good pitcher – he’s a strikeout machine and is projected to have a FIP under 3.00. It’s just very, very difficult for a reliever to justify that kind of paycheck, unless he’s Mariano Rivera.
Even if the Mets fail in voiding the entirety of the contract, they may dodge a bullet in that 2012 vesting option. The option vests if K-Rod finishes either 55 games in 2011 or 100 games between 2010 and 2011. As Rodriguez finished 46 games in 2010, that means that K-Rod’s option will vest if he finishes 54 games in 2011. He still may achieve that mark if he stays with the Mets – he has finished at least 56 games every season since 2005. However, if the Mets’ are intent on keeping Rodriguez’s option from vesting, they will have a much easier time of it now that Rodriguez is on the shelf for the rest of this season – he was on pace to finish 63 games this season, meaning that he would only need to finish 37 to vest the option, an easy task for any full-time closer.
Francisco Rodriguez is a very good closer, but it was hard to imagine his contract being worth the money when he signed it. The 2012 vesting option looked especially dangerous, but thanks to Rodriguez’s stupidity and rash actions, the Mets may be able to get out from under that financial burden. Remarkably, it’s possible that they may even wiggle their way out from under the guaranteed 2011 season. If the Mets manage to void Rodriguez’s contract, it would be a major coup for both the Wilpons and GM Omar Minaya.