Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Orioles pay steep price for K-Rod
By Keith Law
The Baltimore Orioles' acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez makes some sense, but the price they paid -- third base prospect Nick Delmonico -- for a rental reliever feels excessive, while the Milwaukee Brewers get more than they should have for two months of K-Rod's work.
It's to Rodriguez's credit that he has managed to reinvent himself several times as a pitcher, but the 2013 version isn't close to the more successful editions we saw in the mid-2000s.
K-Rod has been an extreme fly ball pitcher this year, working with an average fastball and curveball and above-average changeup. His 1.09 ERA masks a lot of luck on balls in play: his BABIP this year is .250, by far its lowest since 2009 and not sustainable over the long haul. If he doesn't become homer-prone as a fly baller in the AL East, he's a fine middle reliever, worth some fraction of a win over the course of the 20 innings he'll provide to the Orioles -- who could use a little bullpen depth -- over the course of the rest of the season.
Delmonico is probably a top-200 prospect in the minors right now, though not a top-100 guy. He has a solid approach at the plate and above-average power, but also has questions about his position and durability.
The 20-year-old can hit and takes great at-bats, with strong hands and a modest load, as well as raw power that is starting now to translate into games, as he's slugging .471 for high Class A Frederick this season. His biggest problem is staying on the field; he played just 95 of 144 games last year and has played 60 of 99 this year, and in fact was hurt when I saw Frederick earlier this month in Wilmington.
He has also struggled on defense at third and is more likely to end up at first base, although the Brewers should give him at least another year at the hot corner before moving him. His bat profiles as a below-average to fringe-average regular at first, but an everyday guy or better at third -- assuming he can prove his body will hold up for 130-140 games a year.
The main reason I dislike the move for Baltimore is that giving up a prospect of some value for 20 innings of a middle reliever is poor asset management. Delmonico isn't an elite prospect, but he has a little value because he can hit, has great makeup, and has been familiar in scouting circles since he was a sophomore in high school.
The Orioles might have saved him to include in a trade for a more significant acquisition, and could have stretched Kevin Gausman out in a long relief role if they wished to take some pressure off their bullpen. For the Brewers, it doesn't justify all the money they've spent on K-Rod over the past two years, but it's a more than adequate return for a middle relief rental.