The closer position is always moving. The closer struggles and then the next guy to get a chance. Most teams’ best pitcher is the closer and without him pitching well, those close games look like a 10-run deficit. However, the Seattle Mariners don’t seem to mind their closer giving up runs. Fernando Rodney has the best job security among all closers, but how much longer can it continue?
Rodney had two dominant seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and a great season in his first season in Seattle. He recorded 133 saves with a 2.21 ERA in those seasons. This season, he has 14 saves (13th), but a 6.85 ERA, 1.79 WHIP and three blown saves. He does have two wins, but only because his offense bailed him out after allowing a tying or go-ahead run.
In 11 appearances last month, Rodney allowed 10 runs, 15 hits, five walks and seven saves. His first appearance in June didn’t go so well, either. He gave up one run on two hits and a walk for his third blown save. The fact that Rodney continues to give up runs and still has a closer job is surprising.
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Any other team would have pulled their closer after the first month and turned to someone else. Yet, the Mariners are allowing Rodney to continue to struggle, which jeopardizes their season. The team sits at 24-28, 8.5 games behind first place Houston Astros.
If you own Rodney, you need to pick up the guy behind him on the depth chart. With Danny Farquhar demoted to Triple-A, the next man up is Carson Smith. Smith has been on fire this season. He has a 1.17 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, three earned runs and 28 strikeouts in 23.0 innings. He has recorded six straight holds and 11 on the season.
Smith has been getting a lot of work early, 24 appearances in 52 team games, a 74-game pace. This early work could be a sign that the Mariners want to see how well Smith pitches before making the switch. If the Mariners want to make a run at the AL West title, Rodney needs to be removed from his role.
Owners are taking notice of Smith’s performance this season. He has been picked up in 4.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues in the last week, 11.7 percent total. Smith needs to be picked up now before it’s too late. As far as Fernando Rodney is concerned, trade him now. His saves total can bring in some value, but the high ERA and WHIP hurt. It’s likely your team can’t support his struggles for the rest of the season.