Mariners add relief ace Rodney


SEATTLE — After seeing late leads lost and wins frittered away last year, including 13 walkoff losses, the Mariners decided to add experience and stability to their bullpen for the 2014 season.

On Thursday, multiple outlets reported that free-agent closer Fernando Rodney had agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with the Mariners. Baseball sources confirmed the deal pending a physical.

Rodney saved 37 games in 45 chances last season for the Tampa Bay Rays to go with a 5-4 record and a 3.34 earned-run average in 68 appearances. He struck out 82 batters in 662 / 3 innings. His rate of 11.07 strikeouts per nine innings was fifth-best in the American League.

But those numbers are nothing like his 2012 season when he was almost unhittable. Rodney saved 48 games in 50 opportunities for the Rays. In 742 / 3 innings pitched, he allowed just five earned runs for an ERA of 1.81. The command of his mid- to high-90s fastball and sinking changeup were so pinpoint he struck out 76 batters and walked only 15.

He didn’t have quite that stellar command last season, causing his numbers to fall off slightly.

Still, Rodney has accumulated 172 saves in his 11-year big-league career. General manager Jack Zduriencik made it no secret he wanted to add experience to the bullpen.

The Mariners had discussions with Rodney’s representatives at the winter meetings. However, the early demand of a three-year contract for around $30 million was too much. With teams less willing to spend big money for closers, it forced Rodney to lower his demands.

The addition of Rodney means that Danny Farquhar, who took over late last season, will likely go back to being a set-up man in the eighth inning. Farquhar became the closer on Aug. 3 and saved 16 of 18 games to end the season. He was a pleasant surprise, striking out 79 in 55 2/3 innings pitched.

Farquhar was in position to take over the closing job because Tom Wilhelmsen faltered in midseason.

Wilhelmsen came into the 2013 season as the closer after saving 29 games in 2012. He was dominant for the first part of the season, going 11 for 11 in save opportunities.

Late in May, he hit a rough patch when his command and confidence slowly dissipated. He was stripped of his closing duties in mid-June. He earned them back again briefly in July but then lost them again as his confidence and command continued to disappear. He was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma.

The Mariners used an assortment of relievers — Yoervis Medina, Carter Capps and Oliver Perez — in a closer-by-committee role before settling on Farquhar.

Since J.J. Putz was traded before the 2009 season, the Mariners have used a slew of pitchers as their main closer, including Brandon Morrow (2009), David Aardsma (2009-10), Brandon League (2011-12), Wilhelmsen (2012-13) and Farquhar (2013).

Only Aardsma had two full seasons of success in that role.

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or rdivish@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @RyanDivish

 

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