Mariners trade Fernando Rodney to Cubs: Three things to know
The Cubs acquired veteran reliever Fernando Rodney from the Mariners on Thursday. Here are three things to know about the deal.
The Cubs have acquired veteran right-hander Fernando Rodney from the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations, both teams announced. Chicago sent Zac Rosscup to Triple-A and designated Brian Schlitter for assignment to clear 25-man and 40-man roster moves, respectively.
Rodney, 38, was designated for assignment by Seattle earlier this week. He pitched to a 5.68 ERA (66 ERA+) with a 1.50 WHIP in 50 2/3 innings for the Mariners this year. Rodney blew six saves in 22 chances and also suffered five losses. He lost the closer's job to Carson Smith a few weeks ago.
The Cubs are hoping for the best out of Rodney by reuniting him with manager Joe Maddon. The two were together with the Rays from 2012-13, when Rodney saved 85 games with a 1.91 ERA (202 ERA+) in 141 1/3 innings.
Rodney had a 2.85 ERA (128 ERA+) and led baseball with 48 saves just last season, so you don't have to look back too far to see the last time he was an effective reliever. It's a low-cost flier for Chicago. Here are three more things to know about the move.
1. Rodney's stuff is still pretty darn good.
Even in his mid-to-late-30s, Rodney has had some seriously nasty stuff. His changeup is one of the best in baseball and he still throws very hard. Here's a quick breakdown of his stuff over the last few seasons:
|2012-15 Fernando Rodney: Sinker & Changeup|
|SNK velo||SNK whiff%||SNK GB%||CH velo||CH whiff%||CH GB%|
Rodney still has above-average velocity on his sinker (SNK) and the pitch generates a lot of ground balls (GB%). His changeup (CH) still has an above-average swing-and-miss rate (whiff%) as well. Rodney isn't getting swings and misses with his sinker, and he's not getting grounders with his changeup, but in theory that's okay. Those pitches are designed to do the opposite -- sinkers are for ground balls and changeups are for swings and misses.
2. Rodney's results are really bad.
The stuff is fine, all things considered. Rodney's sinker-changeup mix still looks pretty good in a spreadsheet, but the results are not there to back up the data. Check it out:
|2012-15 Fernando Rodney: Results|
|K%||BB%||GB%||HR/FB%||RHB OPS||LHB OPS|
As you probably know, Rodney has never been the most consistent strike-thrower, and his control has been his downfall each time he's struggled. The problem now is that his strikeout rate isn't high enough to compensate. He's lost a lot of strikeouts this year for some reason.
The home run rate -- HR/FB% is homers per fly ball allowed -- is unusually high, especially for a pitcher who called Safeco Field his home ballpark. There could be an element of bad luck in play here. Given his career to date, you wouldn't expect 16.0 percent of Rodney's fly balls to land over the fence. It should be about half that, if not less.
That said, the season is almost over, and a statistical anomaly like Rodney's HR/FB% is not guaranteed to bounce back to his career norm over the next few weeks. Relievers inherently work in small sample sizes and sometimes weird things happened. Rodney's home run rate seems a bit fluky. The strikeout and walk rates though? Those are red flags.
3. The Cubs are taking on minimal risk.
Rodney is a very low-cost acquisition for the Cubs. All they surrendered was a player to be named or cash and Schlitter, who had to be dropped to clear a 40-man roster spot. Also, September 1 is right around the corner, so rosters are expanding soon. Rodney won't be occupying someone else's roster spot. The Cubs will soon be able to call up as many arms as they want.
Reuniting Rodney with Maddon is a nice idea, though I'm not sure how much that alone will help improve his performance. If nothing else, Maddon probably knows Rodney needs to avoid left-handed batters at this point of his career, so he should put him in some good positions to succeed. Considering the cost, it's a very low-risk move.
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