Fernando Rodney free agency: Orioles, Mets in the running

Brian Blanco

Rodney is by far the best closer left on the market now that Grant Balfour has signed with the Rays.

Free-agent closer Fernando Rodney is being pursued by the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Mets and two other teams, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.

Rodney is the best closer remaining on the market now that Grant Balfour has signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles have a hole to fill at the back of their bullpen after trading Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in December. They had previously worked out a deal with Balfour before nixing it at the last minute due to concerns about the right-hander's health, so their desire to spend on a free-agent closer has been made clear.

More on Rodney: Camden Chat Amazin' Avenue

The Mets' interest in Rodney also makes sense. New York used Bobby Parnell as its closer last year, but he missed the last two months of the season with a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery. He expects to be ready for Opening Day, but it is possible that the team doesn't feel comfortable putting all of its eggs in his questionable basket to start the season. LaTroy Hawkins served as a solid replacement after Parnell got hurt last year, but his performance earned him a contract with the Colorado Rockies in November. The identities of the other two teams in Brown's tweet are unclear, but one possibility could be the New York Yankees, who have been mentioned in rumors for other free-agent closers in the wake of Mariano Rivera's retirement after last season.

Rodney, who turns 37 in March, spent the last two seasons with the Rays. The right-hander set a Major League record in 2012 by posting the lowest ERA in history (0.60) in at least 50 innings pitched. That mark, plus his 48 saves, earned him a fifth-place finish in the Cy Young race that year. He returned to mortal levels in 2013, though, with a 3.38 ERA and 37 saves. Despite this decline, his future prospects are good; his career-high rate of 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings last year suggests that he isn't running out of gas despite his advancing age.

The pickings are slim for whoever misses out on Rodney. Kevin Gregg is available; the 35-year-old saved 33 games for the Cubs last year and has 177 saves in his 11-year career, but he's also never recorded an ERA below 3.28 in any individual season. Joel Hanrahan could be a buy-low option after undergoing a Tommy John procedure in May, but it is doubtful that he'll be ready to go on Opening Day. Kyle Farnsworth is also a free agent; the 37-year-old has served as a closer at times during his career.

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