The Seattle Mariners' offseason shopping spree has landed a closer.
According to Grantland's Jonah Keri, the Mariners and righty Fernando Rodney have agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal that could escalate with incentives:
Prior to this news, the two sides had been talking throughout the offseason. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported earlier this month the Mariners had interest in Rodney, who at the time was seeking a two-year, $15 million deal.
Keri's report indicates Rodney and his representation were willing to shave $1 million off their asking price in guaranteed money, but the Mariners essentially acquiesced to his desire. Because of Rodney's past health issues, the incentives are likely related to both performance and his ability to stay on the mound.
Rodney, 36, has spent each of the last two seasons at full health with the Tampa Bay Rays. A middling eighth-inning man with some closing experience when he arrived in Tampa Bay, Rodney's 2012 season with the club proved magical. He converted 48 of 50 save chances and compiled career lows in WHIP (0.78) and ERA (0.60)
The American League named Rodney its Comeback Player of the Year, and he was selected to his first MLB All-Star Game. With things apparently clicking in Tampa Bay, Rodney returned this past season with high expectations but failed to deliver consistently.
Rodney blew a career-high eight saves in 45 opportunities, while his WHIP (1.34) skyrocketed back around his career average and ERA ballooned to 3.38. Despite public pleas from teammates for his return, the Rays seemingly gave their aging closer little thought on the free-agent market—likely (and correctly) assuming he'd eventually be priced out of their low-budget range.
As ESPN's Buster Olney also notes, the Rays pretty obviously preferred Grant Balfour to their in-house option:
Budget has not been a problem for the Mariners. Starting with their monster 10-year, $240 contract with second baseman Robinson Cano, Seattle's front office has been on a spending tear all winter. Cano is joined by Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the team trading for the latter and signing the former in free agency.
The Mariners have also been linked to Rays ace David Price, but seem unwilling to give in to Tampa Bay's current demands.
Attention in the meantime has turned to Rodney and free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, who Heyman indicates could be the next in line. Equipped with extra money from local sports revenue and MLB's television package, general manager Jack Zduriencik has left no stone unturned.
"I can't tell you we are exactly done," Zduriencik said. "We are exploring avenues. In terms of jumping in on the big guys, that has yet to be determined."
When grading on a curve, Rodney's deal makes some sense. Per FanGraphs, he had a WAR greater than one each of the past two seasons—both firsts—and he's the most reliable closer remaining on the market. With the Mariners preparing for a run at the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers in the American League West, landing a reliable ninth-inning option was a must.
Odds are, Seattleites will hope 2012 Rodney shows up far more often than his less stellar 2013 counterpart.
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