I know all these stories have been talked about and re-talked about since it’s the off-season and there is very little going on, but bare with me as I talk about this one some more.
People act like Francisco Rodriguez’s option year for 2012 vesting would be disastrous. He makes 11.5 million next year and that jumps to 17.5 million if he finishes 55 games, which he usually does. That’s a six million dollar raise, Although if it doesn’t vest they owe him 3.5 million to buy it out. It’s not really that bad. Omar knew that a lot of money was coming off in 2012, and the philosophy is that good teams have good closers. Since K-Rod is one of the best, and remains one of the best (i.e. finishing games, staying healthy, and the option vesting), the Mets would be best served to keep him. The raise is a lot, and I’m not sure how that went down in negotiations or why it need to be so much more than the base contract, but if the option vests it means he’s contributing to the success of this team.
The Mets problems in the past couple of years have not been spending too much money, but spending too much money on guys who have not contributed. The Mets have not been playing with a $140 million dollar payroll team the last couple of years. If the Mets have guys on the field, like Francisco Rodriguez, who are performing and contributing, then the amount of money they’re being paid becomes less important. Sure he’s making more money than he’s theoretically worth, but he is adding value. There is no guarentee that the players you sign to replace him with that 17.5 (really 14 because of the buyout) million dollars would win you more games. Especially as it’s a one year thing, and the Mets reportedly will have plenty of money to spend next year without that 14 million and an extra hole to fill. Do you want to take the gamble that the money saved by the option not vesting is will help create a more successful team in 2012? It’s certainly possible, but sometimes the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” is apt.
Using games started and games finished as vesting options has always annoyed me. You’re not allowed to vest options based on statistical performance, and this seems to be skirting that line. Games on the active roster, or “games healthy” would make more sense. Both games started and games finished have the possibility of the team manipulating things so that options don’t vest. So do games appeared, as Alex Cora found out last year. Games finished is even more linked to performance, because a closer being bad at home actively alters the number of games he finishes.
There is no real need to speculate on ways to get around the option though. Francisco Rodriguez will either be healthy and successful and closing out a lot of games for a reasonably successful club, or the team will wallow in mediocrity and not get that many chances. The Mets offense seems poised to score a lot of runs though, so if the bullpen can hold leads, there may be less save situations. If Terry Collins chooses not to use Rodriguez in four run save situations or get him work for the sake of work, then that could keep the games finished number down. If the Mets are competing in August and September then not only will the Mets need and want him closing games, cost be damned, but the added attendance boost and revenue from being competitive will more than pay that raise for 2012. The thing the Mets can do to create the most money and financial flexibility is to win, not to look for ways around options or to avoid pricey contracts.