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Monday, February 11, 2008

Angels, K-Rod Headed For Arbitration

Not really a surprise.
The Angels and closer Francisco Rodriguez have made no progress in negotiations for a 2008 contract, and it seems almost certain the two sides will have to settle their dispute during a Feb. 21 arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"Sometimes you file for a trial, and that's what we did," said Paul Kinzer, Rodriguez's agent. "There's a philosophical difference between us and the Angels on where [Rodriguez's salary] should be, so we're going to let an arbitrator decide."

Rodriguez, who made $7 million in 2007, has asked for $12.5 million and the Angels have offered $10 million, a $2.5-million gap that was the second-largest of any arbitration filings, behind slugger Ryan Howard's $3-million gap with the Phillies.

Much as I like Frankie, he's been wildly inconsistent, has had problems with the longball, and has had a pretty consistent second half fade of about one earned run every year since he's been designated team closer. And then there's that problem with last year's ALDS Game 2. He has a tendency to serve up meatballs at, uh, bad points in the game.

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What's interesting about Frankie (which doesn't necessarily mean he is worth $12.5 million or the more he will get following next season) is that his comparables are ridiculous. Through age 25, he has a higher ERA+ than all of his top 10 comparables, including 14 points better than HoFer Bruce Sutter (187 to 173), in addition to having the most appearances, saves, IP, and Ks (510 to Ugueth Urbina's 401).

Now granted, he started young (which helps the innings, saves, and Ks advantages AND there are really only 30 years of short relievers to compare to him (the only pre-1974 player on there is Frank Linzy from 63-66). And included in the list are Gregg Olson, Sutter, Rod Beck, Lee Smith, Bobby Thigpen, and Urbina, all of which had reasonably successful careers or better (I don't know much about Tom Niedenfuer, Rawly Eastwick, or Linzy). The other guy on there is Chad Cordero, who is probably the one guy (maybe with Huston Street, as well) that can be called a contemporary, and he is certainly better than Cordero and Street.

What this all means is that Franky is a once in a lifetime type talent and on pace for a Hall-type career, barring significant injury and/or catastrophic loss of ability to pitch. He even has a decent shot at breaking the K's by a reliever record (I think around 1200). I would rather the team overpay for a guy like Frankie than a guy like Matthews, Jr.
I can see a case for letting him go, too. Much depends on his durability, which has been debated endlessly. I am inclined to think the Angels will -- and should -- pay.
Given Escobar's own durability issues, what do you think about the idea that's been thrown around about letting Frankie go and making Kelvim the closer? He's performed quite well for us in relief, short session work might keep him healthy, and we have him through 2009.

Seems like the closer role is high-profile enough not to ding Kelvim's pride, and we might net a solid starter or blue chip offensive piece if we trade Frankie sooner rather than later.
I think the problem I have with Frankie is that too often I compare him with what I want him to be, or what I think he should be, rather than comparing him to what else it out there. He'll always lose in the former comparison, but he does pretty darn good in the latter. And he started so early, that if he can stay in good health, he can set all sorts of records in Anaheim.

I guess I just don't see the logic in opening up the checkbooks for guys like Matthews and Hunter, and not doing it for Frankie.
Andrew -- I think Escobar could be a possibility for a year or two at most. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind (and I suspect the WSAA numbers would back this up, but I don't have them readily at hand at the moment) that the Angels have received the best years of his career as a starter. That's not to disparage his utility going forward, but he's already had chips removed from his elbow twice. Third time and he might likely be out of the game for good.

Seitz -- yeah, expectations are pretty hard to overcome for K-Rod, as evidenced by that sparkly nickname. I'm in favor of opening the checkbook, too, but with the caveat that relief pitching is inherently variable.
but with the caveat that relief pitching is inherently variable.

Which is why cutting loose guys like Mark Petkovsek is usually a good idea, and signing guys like Estaban Yan isn't. But generally where there is a five year history of success, I'm more inclined to believe it's talent and not a fluke. I agree that, out of the pen, great pitchers can have off years, and crappy pitchers can have good years, You usually don't see a guy with K-Rod's track record fall off a cliff, especially at his age, barring some sort of catastrophic injury.

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