WASHINGTON — After being linked to the free agent reliever for days, the Washington Nationals made it official on a minor league deal with former top closer Francisco Rodriguez on Tuesday:
The closer-needy Nats are in such a bind for results at the back end of the bullpen that they are willing to take a flyer on a player whose best days are almost certainly behind him, and who was considered the weak link on the only bullpen squad with worse statistical numbers than the Nats (the Detroit Tigers).
But what the Nationals need is lightning in a bottle, to stabilize a frustrating bullpen and get them closer to the trade deadline. If all works out, they’ll have a low-risk, low-price solution. If all else fails, the Nats can hardly get worse than their current situation.
As expected, Rodriguez signed a minor league deal that will reportedly give him a two-week tryout with the team. If he performs well, he will get an immediate spot in the bullpen, and maybe even at closer. If he fails to impress, he has an opt-out date of July 12.
The Nats will likely focus energy on finding the key to K-Rod’s approach, which last year translated to 44 saves with a 3.24 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings for Detroit. That would be a vast improvement for the Nats of late.
Without departed closer Mark Melancon in the bullpen this season, the Nationals have 12 blown saves split among six relievers. With the team’s intolerance for blown saves, it will be interesting to see how much leash Rodriguez will be given.
Before being cut by Detroit, Rodriguez had a 7.82 ERA with nine home runs allowed in 25 1/3 innings with the Tigers before being released. He also leads all of baseball with six blown saves.