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Arizona Diamondbacks – Fernando Rodney would reportedly start the season as the closer

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Fernando Rodney Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Fernando Rodney Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, reportedly added a veteran to the bullpen

The Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly made the first of several expected moves to upgrade the back end of the bullpen.

On Tuesday, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Rodney and Arizona agreed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal filled with incentives. According to Heyman, Rodney is expected to close. As of the close of the winter meetings late Thursday, the Diamondbacks did not confirm the signing of Rodney. During media availability on Wednesday, Hazen declined to comment on the report. He is still discussing other moves with clubs.

“We’re getting asked about a lot of our players. We’re still doing more due diligence on a lot of different things than going through specific deals right now,” Hazen said. “One of the goals coming into the Meetings is to continue to get a better assessment on where guys are relative to how other teams see them. It’s not that it’s just curiosity. I think it’s important for us to have a firm understanding of the value of these guys externally. We know how we value them internally.”

Related Story: Middle, back-end relievers sought

Rodney started last season with the San Diego Padres. In 28.2 innings, the 40-year-old pitched to a 0.31 ERA and a 2.31 FIP. On June 30, the Miami Marlins acquired Rodney. In South Beach, native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was a different pitcher. In 36.2 innings, Rodney complied a 5.89 ERA and a 4.97 FIP.

The 2017 season will be Rodney’s 15th in the majors. This signing fits the “low risk, high reward” definition.

Bow and Arrow coming

The reported amount of money is a bargain and if Rodney’s time in Arizona does not go according to plan, he could be moved at the trade deadline. That could clear the way for the rise of Jake Barrett or Enrique Burgos as a potential closer.

Rodney’s performance in Miami, combined with his age could be a red flag.  However, a look beyond the right-hander’s peripherals tells a slightly different story.

In 2016, Rodney struck out 10.19 batters per nine innings and allowed just five home runs in 65.1 IP. His 55.2 groundball percentage would do wonders at Chase Field.

Rodney did some of his best work in high leverage situations. Opposing batters hit .252 with men on base and .206 with RISP. If anything, he will provide leadership and energy to a bullpen that in 2016, lacked both.

Rodney throws a mid 90’s sinker and a high 90’s four-seam fastball, but his change-up is his go to pitch.

This pitch is thrown 13 mph slower than his sinker and when thrown out of the same arm slot, this provides plenty of deception. In July 2015, the Seattle Mariners, the team Rodney pitched for at the time, believed the veteran was tipping his pitches.

There was a noticeable difference in the way he set up his glove for a fastball or a change-up, hitters caught on and punished his fastball. This doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore, but could be of concern.

Last year, Rodney walked 5.1 batters per nine innings, an obvious concern. Another concern is his home park. Rodney pitched in two spacious, pitcher friendly ballparks last season, Petco Park and Marlins Park. Rodney would make a substantial amount of his appearances at Chase Field, a ballpark with the second-highest elevation in the majors. Rodney’s ability to keep the ball on the ground is mandatory in a place like Chase Field.

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