Update, 12:03am: Here's the latest on this from Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times:
#Rays deal with Rodney is NOT done, but is definitely in the works. Could be something official in next day or two.
So we'll have to wait for the final word, but it does seem like Rodney will be a Ray. The big question is how much his contract will guarantee. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a low base salary (minor league deal, please?) with incentives.
Original report: According to a report from ESPN Deportes, the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Fernando Rodney to a 1 year, $2-ish million deal. The story has been corroborated by Enrique Rojas from ESPN Deportes, and the story linked above (warning: the story is in Spanish) includes quotes from Rodney that detail the terms of the agreement.
There has been no further corroboration of this story, even though it was first published on December 29th. Feel free to be skeptical if you will, but my assumption is that this story simply slipped through the cracks over the holidays. I can't imagine there are many people with a hotline to Fernando Rodney, and anyway, he states in the story that the deal wouldn't be announced until January. ESPN Deportes is normally trustworthy on this sort of stuff.
So take it as you will, but I'm choosing to believe this report....although in all honesty, the $2 million price tag for Rodney seems like a stretch. Since the details of the contract are unknown, maybe that includes incentives? Maybe it's contingent on him making the club? I can't imagine it's all guaranteed. We'll have to see.
If this report is true, Rodney is a decent signing. He's a relief pitcher that has formerly displayed promise -- he has an 11.1% career swinging strike rate -- but he's had control issues over the past couple seasons that have sapped his effectiveness. He hasn't had a walk rate below 4.5 per nine since 2007, and last season he walked 28 batters in only 32 innings pitched. He can still generate strikeouts (7.20-ish K/9 over the past three seasons) and get plenty of groundballs (58% GB rate last season), but he will need to get his control down if he wants to get his career back on track.
A right-handed pitcher, Rodney has pretty even splits for his career (4.18 FIP vs. L; 4.17 FIP vs. R). He's a classic Power Arm, as he averages 95 MPH with his fastballs and he uses them quite frequently. He technically throws four main pitches -- a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, and slider -- but he rarely throws his slider anymore. His changeup appears to be his main offspeed weapon, and he throws it about 30% of the time.
Rodney seems to believe he's going to come in and compete for the closer role in Tampa Bay, which is somewhat laughable. He's a middle of the bullpen option (if his control is fixed) and he has the potential to develop into more, but he hasn't posted a sub-4 ERA since 2006. He's a good buy low option by Friedman, but I envision him more akin to Juan Cruz (Power Arm, wild, older, middling chances of breakout) than to someone like Joaquin Benoit (who had posted a 2.85 ERA, 3.17 FIP a mere two seasons before the Rays signed him).
And with this move, the Rays have likely finished building their bullpen for the 2012 season. I wouldn't liked for someone with a bit more upside than Rodney, but hey, its not like the Rays need another back-of-the-'pen arm. Rodney could work just fine.
Also, a huuuuge hat tip and shout out to John Gregg (@RaysDigest) for being the first one to uncover this news on ESPN Deportes. If you're not already following him on Twitter, do it. He's an awesome guy and his Rays site is full of great reads.