As the arms race in the American League continues -- led by the Kansas City Royals -- the surprisingly good Houston Astros are still looking for relief help.
Having already acquired Scott Kazmir to bolster the rotation, Houston has been discussing several top relievers thought to be available. Brewers' closer Francisco Rodriguez is among those the Astros have reportedly talked about, along with the Padres' Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit.
#Astros are still monitoring the reliever market. Kimbrel, Benoit and K-Rod among names they've discussed.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 29, 2015
Originally the lone Brewers' All Star in 2015 (before Ryan Braun was added to the roster), Rodriguez is in the midst of an excellent season. He currently has what would be a career-best 1.50 ERA with 40 strikeouts and just nine walks over 36 innings of work. He's also a perfect 23 for 23 in save opportunities.
There have already been a few top relievers dealt this deadline with Jonathan Papelbon going to the Nationals, Steve Cishek to the Cardinals and Tyler Clippard going to the Mets. If a team is looking to acquire someone with closer experience because that's a thing, the options are growing more limited.
Rodriguez is also perhaps one of the players the Brewers should be most open to trading, even for a minor prospect. The Brewers are going nowhere fast, and aren't likely to contend next year. In my opinion, a good bullpen -- and in particular a good closer -- is something that is a luxury for a team in Milwaukee's position. They aren't playing to make the post-season, so running with a slightly weakened relief corps is alright. Maybe David Goforth could have a chance to sit and relax for a few weeks without having to go back and forth between the Brewers and Sky Sox.
That said, there are a couple of reasons teams might stay away from Rodriguez. The first is his contract. A month ago, Ken Rosenthal listed that as a concern among potentially interested teams: Rodriguez is earning just $3.5 million this season but is set to get $7.5 million in 2016 as well as a $2 million buyout (or $6 million option) for 2017. That's a significant financial commitment for a relief pitcher.
And, of course, Rodriguez's personal history is not the best. Buster Olney has suggested that Rodriguez's past transgressions involving domestic abuse will keep his value lower than it would be if those concerns did not exist.
The Brewers would probably be well served to deal Rodriguez to an interested team. The Astros could be that team, but they seem to be weighing plenty of options and we have no idea how genuinely interested they are. Interestingly enough, despite their interest in improving the Astros actually have the third-best bullpen ERA (2.64) in baseball this year. Their bullpen xFIP of 3.37 is second-best to the Brewers (3.29). Still, the 2014 Royals showed just how much a dominant bullpen can help, and getting someone like Rodriguez who has shown they will consistently be good (those bullpen numbers are still small sample sizes, after all) would be worthwhile.
Smart money is probably on the Brewers keeping Rodriguez, still. The negatives on him (salary, past) might outweigh the positives for a team like the Astros. Plus, the Brewers and Rodriguez seem to really like each other as they keep coming back to one another.
Two days until the deadline!