On July 12, 2011, the Brewers and Mets completed a trade that saw Francisco Rodriguez sent to Milwaukee. Three and a half years later, and the team now can't seem to stay away from him.
The team announced today that they had signed Rodriguez to a two-year deal with a team option for a third year. That means Rodriguez will play a fifth, probably a sixth, and perhaps a seventh year with the Brewers. And until this contract, he never had a guarantee beyond one season.
When the Brewers first traded for Rodriguez, they knew they were getting half of a season of the right-hander. He didn't cost much to acquire -- a couple never-turned-into-anything minor leaguers -- so the probability of him leaving in the off-season didn't matter much. Trying to get a draft pick, the Brewers made an arbitration offer to Rodriguez before he hit free agency. To their surprise, he accepted. The two sides agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal for 2012.
That year, Rodriguez had the worst season of his career. He appeared in a career-high 78 games and posted a 4.38 ERA, a 1.333 WHIP and a career-low 9.0 K/9. With the conclusion of his one year deal, he was once again a free agent prior to 2013.
And no team really wanted to touch him, either, it seemed. His off-season stretched on and on, until he finally found someone to take him in, all the way into mid-April. Once again, that team was the Milwaukee Brewers.
He proved he still could pitch that year, posting a 1.09 ERA ERA in 25 games with Milwaukee in 2013. Mid-season, the Brewers traded him to the Orioles, getting recently-released third base prospect Nick Delmonico in return. That seemed like it might be the final time we saw Rodriguez in a Brewers uniform.
It obviously wasn't, though. Last year he once again saw his free agency go deep into the off-season. In mid-February, though, the Brewers once again came calling, once again with a one-year deal. Rodriguez came into spring expected to be a set-up man. As fate would have it, presumed closer Jim Henderson suffered an injury and was replaced with the veteran Rodriguez.
So, suddenly Rodriguez was once again the Brewers closer. He finished 2014 with 44 saves while posting a 3.04 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP. He turned out to be a steal, at $3.25 million for the year. Following that great year, he was expected to see a nice deal in free agency.
At first, the Brewers stayed away. Then Mark Attanasio talked to Scott Boras. Then the rumors picked up more. Then Mark A and Boras kept talking. Today, the Brewers signed Rodriguez again.
The Brewers have acquired Rodriguez five times in the last five years. They can't stay away from them. Really, it's partly because they've been getting a pretty good deal. Rodriguez has been a fantastic pitcher for the most part while with the team, and he's come at a much smaller cost from other top-line closers and relievers.
This time, Rodriguez has more of a guarantee. We won't be faced with the question of if he'll re-sign with Milwaukee a year from now, because he's officially signed through at least 2016.
On the field, he's almost guaranteed to help the team. He's been one of the best relievers in baseball over the course of his career -- even that career-worst season doesn't really seem so bad. They haven't announced it, but it would be shocking if Rodriguez wasn't the team's closer in 2015 with Jonathan Broxton the primary set-up man.
Off the field, Rodriguez makes it hard to root for him. It's easier for some to separate on-the-field and off-the-field. For me, it's a little more difficult.
Regardless, Rodriguez is back. For one reason or another, he seems destined to stay with the Brewers. There's some sort of gravitational pull between the two sides, a magnetism. The Brewers can't stay away from Rodriguez, Rodriguez can't stay away from the Brewers. And until he retires, I'll never believe he won't one day be back pitching for the team. It's fate, at this point.