MLB rumors: Indians to meet with closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson

J. Meric

Are the Indians in the market for one of the better relief pitchers available this offseason?


Indians
GM Chris Antonetti will meet this week with the agent for relief pitchers Francisco Rodney and Brian Wilson.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes reports Antonetti is open to filling the closer vacancy created by the departure of Chris Perez internally (likely with either Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw), he also wants to check in on some of the free agents with closer experience.

Rodney put up one of the best relief-pitcher seasons in history in 2012, when he put up an MLB-record 0.60 ERA (641 ERA+) while saving 48 games in 50 chances for the Rays. He fell far back to earth in 2013 though. His ERA spiked to 3.38 (113 ERA+), with 37 saves in 45 chances. His strikeout-rate was actually better this year, but his walks jumped from 1.81 per 9 innings to 4.86. His BABIP also jumped, but most of that jump was simply a regression to the mean, and his 'true' skill is much closer to his 2013 numbers than those from 2012 (just about no one's 'true' skill is close to Rodney's 2012 numbers).

Wilson was closer for the Giants from 2008 to 2011, but missed almost all of 2012 and 2013 after having Tommy John surgery. He returned in time to make 18 appearances for the Dodgers, posting a 0.66 ERA in a set-up role, with a strikeout rate close to his pre-surgery numbers. He also pitched 6 scoreless innings in the playoffs for Los Angeles.

I ranked Rodney 6th on my list of the top free agent relief pitchers, with Wilson 5th. I speculated that both were in line for something like 2 years, $16 million. Wilson (who is 31 compared to 36 for Rodney) might prefer a 1-year deal (perhaps for $9M or so) in order to rebuild more value by staying healthy over a full season  and coming back in 12 months in search of something like 3 years, $40 million.

I think both these guys stand a good chance of being fairly capable pitchers next season, but I don't want the Indians signing either of them. I expect the Indians will start next season with a payroll in the $85-90 million range, and I don't believe any team should be spending 10% of its payroll on a relief pitcher. Frankly, the entire Tribe bullpen shouldn't cost much more than $9-10 million. Hopefully Antonetti is just kicking the tires.

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