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Yankees free agent target: Francisco Rodriguez

Francisco Rodriguez could be had at an affordable, one-year deal to help improve the Yankees' bullpen.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Although it wasn't the Yankees' biggest need heading into the off-season, the bullpen was an area that needed to be fixed. Mariano Rivera had retired and, more recently, Boone Logan (and Joba Chamberlain) have moved on to different clubs. To replace Logan, the Yankees inked Matt Thornton to a two-year, $7 million deal on Tuesday. With a number of high-profile closers now off the board, the Yankees don't seem to be looking for a "replacement" for Rivera, per say; David Robertson will most likely be that guy. At the same time, they're probably looking for a reliever to help replace the innings before the ninth, namely the seventh and eighth. If they choose to go cheap, Francisco Rodriguez could be an option.

Split almost evenly between the Brewers and Orioles last season, Francisco Rodriguez pitched to a 2.70 ERA and 3.65 FIP. However, he was much better in Milwaukee than he was in Baltimore. With the Brewers, Rodriguez pitched to a 1.09 ERA and 3.09 FIP in 24.2 innings. He was then sent to Baltimore in a trade for minor league infielder Nick Delmonico. After being acquired by the Birds, Rodriguez pitched to a 4.50 ERA and 4.28 FIP. He saw his strikeout rate jump (11.4 K/9 with Baltimore, 9.5 K/9 with Milwaukee) and his walk rate drop (2.1 BB/9 with Baltimore, 3.3 BB/9 with Milwaukee), but his home run rate sky rocketed to 2.1 HR/9 with the Orioles after posting a 0.7 HR/9 with the Brewers. That 2.1 HR/9 came thanks to a laughable 31.3 HR/FB% which is sure to regress at least somewhat close to his career 8.8 HR/FB%, even if he does pitch his home games in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium next season.

As I'm sure you all know, Rodriguez was one of the game's premiere closers, mainly from 2005-2010. In that period, he pitched to a 2.56 ERA and 3.07 FIP (11.1 K/9) in 398 appearances while collecting a Major-League-high 254 saves, including a Major-League-record 62 saves in 2008. These days, Rodriguez is more of a set-up man, if anything, as he's compiled just 13 saves in the last season-and-a-half with the Brewers and Orioles. Since becoming a non-closer after being traded from the Mets to the Brewers in the second half of 2011, Rodriguez has pitched to a 3.35 ERA. In that same span, Rodriguez has at least came close to his "K-Rod" nickname, as he recorded a 9.7 K/9 as well.

Unlike his days with the Angels, Rodriguez isn't a guy who blows batters away with 95-96 mph heat anymore. Instead, he tries to, more or less, finesse his way by batters, as he sat around 92 mph in 2013 (as well as the three seasons before that) with his fastball, while transitioning from a big, nasty curve to a Bugs-Bunny-like change up as his primary out pitch. That change has helped Rodriguez hold left-handed batters to a .130 BA and .250 SLG last year and Rodriguez, overall, held lefties to a .513 OPS last season. That success would be beneficial pitching in lefty-hitting-friendly Yankee Stadium in 2014.

Jose Veras was able to get a one-year (plus a club option) $4 million deal to become the Cubs' closer, and since Rodriguez is probably a notch below Veras at this point, the former might be had at something less than that $4MM figure for one year. Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit also signed favorable deals recently with the latter getting a two-year, $15.5 million deal from San Diego. That's significant given that he'll likely be Huston Street's setup man. If that's the case, you have to wonder how much the Yankees actually were interested in Benoit, since it seems he accepted a setup role in San Diego with an affordable contract. Maybe he just really likes the weather there (who doesn't?), or maybe the Yankees really want to go cheap to fill out their bullpen, and, if that's the route they choose to take, Francisco Rodriguez could be on their radar.