Closer Francisco Rodriguez: Show him the money
LAS VEGAS -- The recession may not affect the contracts dangled in front of such premier free agents as Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, but the sagging economy, combined with a glut of available closers and a lack of big-market teams needing them, is definitely affecting free agent Francisco Rodriguez, who set a major league record with 62 saves for the Angels in 2008.
Rodriguez, a 26-year-old right-hander, was hoping for a deal in the five-year, $75-million range, which would have rivaled New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's contract in annual average salary. But the only offer Rodriguez has, from the New York Mets, is for a reported two years, $24 million, which is less than what Rodriguez turned down from the Angels (three years, $34 million) The Mets are believed to be willing to add a third year to the deal if necessary.*
"He just broke the saves record, yeah, he's disappointed," agent Paul Kinzer said when asked how Rodriguez felt about his market. "He's a year late."
Rodriguez met with Mets General Manager Omar Minaya and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon at the winter meetings Sunday night, but the Mets are also pursuing closer Brian Fuentes, who talked with team officials today.* Should Fuentes sign with the Mets, the market for Rodriguez might shrink even more.
The Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers are looking for closers, but it's doubtful any would approach the $10-million-a-year mark to procure one.
"Obviously, it's a different world we're all living in," Kinzer said. "Whoever thought General Motors, Ford and Chrysler might go out of business, and the Tribune Company would file for bankruptcy. The market has changed. To what degree if affects baseball, we don't know yet."
Rodriguez, who made $10 million last season, turned down an offer of arbitration from the Angels Sunday. Kinzer said "there is still a possibility" of Rodriguez returning to the Angels, "but they have other things they're focusing on right now, and I don't know how it's going to shake down."
"They have other priorities, Teixeira and Sabathia. They feel those are areas they have to cover more. Those are their priorities. They've been very upfront about that."
-- Mike DiGiovanna
* Updated at 5:10 p.m. PST
Photo: Francisco Rodriguez reacts after giving up a two-run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS at Angel Stadium on Oct. 3. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images