The Minnesota Twins finalized a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Fernando Rodney. Where does he fit in the Twins bullpen?
The Minnesota Twins made their first big move for the 2018 season by signing 15-year veteran Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $6 million deal.
Of course, Rodney is no stranger to the AL Central as he spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Detroit Tigers. By signing with the Twins, he returns to a division he knows very well, although things have surely changed since he left Detroit in 2009.
Something that hasn’t changed over the years is Rodney’s role in the back end of bullpens. Particularly, he’s been an effective closer over the years with 300 saves in 366 opportunities. With the Twins, he’s likely to keep a role as closer while the young arms in the Minnesota bullpen continue to develop towards such a role.
As Sanchez reports, the deal is incentive-laden, so the risk of relying on a 40-year-old to deliver is minor with only $4.5 million guaranteed. Nevertheless, the veteran still has a mid 90s fastball and sinker, along with a mid 80s changeup, that is still very effective in making batters swing and miss. Last season, he averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, above his career average of nine per nine innings. Compared to recent Twins closers Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle, he’s more of your prototypical closer given that he has the stuff to strike batters out.
That being said, he’s also mightily struggled with his control. For his career, he averages 4.4 walks per nine innings, not necessarily an ideal number for a closer. Even so, Minnesota is happy to have someone fill in the closer role for the short-term with plenty of closing experience. Last season, he was one of the more effective closers in the league for the Arizona Diamondbacks, saving 39 of 45 opportunities, good enough for third-best in the NL. Not to mention, he improved his walk ratio from a dismal 6.1 batters per nine innings in 2016 to 4.2 per nine in 2017.
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Furthermore, it shouldn’t be assumed that Rodney keeps the role for the whole season. With young arms like Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, and J.T. Chargois waiting for an opportunity to close games, there’s a chance either one works their ways up to the role. In turn, at this point in Rodney’s career, he should be more than willing to pitch in a lesser role in the pen if called to do so.
Moving forward, the Twins are bound to add another arm or two for bullpen depth, but it’s safe to say they’ve found their guy late in games. In other words, don’t expect a top bullpen name to sign with Minnesota in light of Rodney’s signing, although someone like Matt Belisle may be a reliable, inexpensive arm to return back to the pen.
Now, the real question is whether the Twins can get the veteran to wear his hat the right way. Time will only tell.