Phil Rogers reports that Ivan Rodriguez, whose presence on the Rangers was once considered sacrosanct, is now left adrift scrounging for a job due to his frequent injuries. I found a few issues in the article quite interesting.
First, Rogers claims that "Ivan Rodriguez has Cooperstown numbers." Are we prepared to state this as yet? Rodriguez has 10 Gold Gloves, 10 All-Star appearances, and an MVP award. He has a 136 score in the Hall of Fame Monitor (100 implies a likely HoFer) and a 42.5 in the Hall of Fame Standards test (50 is average for a HoFer). Gary Carter had similar figures and has had to wait for the plaque. He also has four similar players out of 10 who are Hall of Famers. If Rodriguez quit the game today (or never finds another job), what are the odds of his enshrinement? Not very good, I would think. It's not that I have anything against Pudge. It's that the voters will view him perhaps unfairly as washed up before 30 and, therefore, not a Hall-of-Famer. It's a minor point, but Mama, that's where the fun is.
Second "Baltimore and the Cubs are the only teams that have expressed any interest..." I am at a loss as to why the rebuilding Orioles would be interested in plunking down millions on Rodriguez. Geronimo Gil had a wretched season last year (his .632 OPS was only 68% of the park-adjusted average), protestations by Rogers notwithstanding, but Rodriguez has not exactly shown a penchant for developing young arms and will not come cheap. Chicago seems a poor candidate as well, at least on the surface. The Cubs just acquired starting catcher Damian Miller and backup Paul Bako in the offseason. They also owe $12.5 M to returning catcher Todd Hundley. However, they do enter the season will untried rookie Hee Seop Choi at first base. If they could induce Rodriguez to switch to first to reduce the wear and tear on his knees and back, they might have a pretty good pickup. Only seven major-league first basemen (including Texas teammate Rafael Palmeiro) posted an OPS higher than Rodriguez's .895 last year. I doubt that Rodriguez, who prides himself on his defense, would go for it though. Two other points: Rodriguez has never played first, not that he couldn't pick it up if he had a mind to. Pudge's numbers as a DH (the only other spot besides catcher he has occupied) in the last four years are execrable (about a .525 OPS, .197 average, 1 home run, 10 strikeouts, and no walks in 76 at-bats), though they could have come from periods when he was recovery from an injury. Make that three: However, if you look at the three players most similar to Rodriguez over their careers (Ernie Lombardi, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane) and the three most similar at the age of 30 (Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra, and Joe Torre), none played more than 120 games at catcher after his 32 birthday and some had already switched positions.
Third, Rogers opines that "[h]ealth is the only reason Rodriguez didn't join Jim Thome as this winter's premiere free agent." Is that true? Well, Rodriguez's OPS has remained at or above the 25% above average (park-adjusted) that it was in his MVP year (52%, 30%, and 23% above average the last three years). His .931 OPS last year led all major-league starting catchers. I would say that it is true.
Fourth, Rodriguez, in Roger's estimation, "is likely to have found a team willing to give him $8-10 million a year for three or four years, possibly with vesting options that could make it even longer." I would be surprised if he made that much in these austere times especially given the lack of competition for his services, but you never know.
Lastly, Rogers states that "Texas... has almost no idea who will catch if Rodriguez leaves. It has explored trades for Montreal's Michael Barrett and Cleveland's Einar Diaz and would be interested in Miller if the Cubs signed Rodriguez." Shouldn't the Rangers be trying to rectify this situation even if they do re-sign Rodriguez, given the likelihood of injury. By the way, Todd Green was terrific in a backup role last year and as far as I can tell is still signed.