This offseason, the Rays will face the same daunting task once again: finding undervalued players on the market who will sign cheaply yet deliver impressive results. Without the funds to pursue to top free agents, the Rays instead go for the reclamation projects, the players with talent who had failed to live up to expectations for a year or two or three. Somehow the Rays have developed a sixth sense in regard to finding the veteran players who everyone else thought were done and revitalizing their careers. As the Rays look to do so again this offseason, let’s take a look at the previous players they have picked off the scrapheap to take their team to the next level. Who better to start off with than their closer the last two years, Fernando Rodney.
The Rays were certainly taking a risk when signing Fernando Rodney considering his rocky and injury-plagued 2011 season with the Angels. Rodney pitched only 32 innings with a 4.50 ERA, giving up 28 walks while striking out just 26. The Angels had signed Rodney after his 37-save season with the Tigers in 2009 expecting to have an effective late-inning arm and possibly a closer. Instead, Rodney was a major disappointment, and he hit the free agent market following the 2011 season with his career seemingly on the fringes.
However, in January of 2012, the Rays signed Rodney to a one-year, $2 million contract with a club option for 2013. They saw his struggles, but they also saw a fastball reaching 100 MPH and an excellent changeup, and they hoped that somehow they could harness his stuff into the results he was capable of. As it turned out, signing Rodney turned out better than anyone would have dreamed about when he made history as the Rays’ closer.
Rodney set the record for lowest ERA for a reliever in MLB history in 2012, putting up an unbelievable 0.60 ERA in 76 appearances and 74.2 innings pitched. Rodney not only delivered 48 saves that season but also brought a new level of excitement to the mound with every appearance. From his overpowering results to his shooting the moon after every save, Rodney’s dazzling performances certainly made the Trop grow louder every night. The Rays’ 2012 season ended in disappointment as the Rays missed the playoffs, but with Rodney on the mound in Game 162 lowering his ERA from 0.61 to 0.60 and nailing down his 48th save, there was plenty of optimism for the future.
After a season like 2012, the Rays had no choice but to pick up his club option for 2013. No one thought he could maintain that level of play, but after just how good he was, fans had to believe he could still be a dominant closer. Rodney did not repeat quite the same magic as he struggled throughout the season, but he still delivered 37 saves in 68 games with a 3.38 ERA.
Rodney is back on the market as a free agent, but it is uncertain whether the Rays will have serious interest in re-signing him. Rodney, who is 36 years old, is exploring the free agent market but has also made it known that he is interested in returning to Tampa Bay. The issue is that Rodney’s salary will be expensive, and while Joel Peralta said that he thought Rodney would take a lesser paying salary to stay with the Rays, there have been no other indications that Rodney’s salary will be any lower than his market value, which is far above what the Rays will be willing to pay.
That’s the way it goes for the Rays, one successful reclamation project leaves and they have to find another one. As the Rays build next season’s roster with the help of free agents, they will be looking for another hard-throwing reliever coming off struggles to bolster the back end of their bullpen like Fernando Rodney did so successfully. After how successful they have been in recent years, you have to think they will be just fine.
Keep checking in over next few weeks for other articles about reclamation project free agents that the Rays have turned into dynamic players.