Angels General Manager Tony Reagins did a little last-minute Christmas shopping Thursday. And while he didn't get exactly what he wanted to put under the tree, he's pretty happy with what he did get -- hard-throwing reliever Fernando Rodney, who set a franchise record by converting 37 of 38 save opportunities for the Detroit Tigers last season.
Rodney, a 32-year-old free agent, agreed in principle to a two-year, $11-million contract to provide depth at the back of an already-deep bullpen that will return major league saves leader Brian Fuentes.
It wasn't, however, the perfect gift. That's because Rodney's 4.40 earned-run average last season was the highest among American League relievers with at least 20 saves. Plus, he is 4-17 with a 4.48 ERA over the last three seasons. And in 2007 and 2008, he missed 20 weeks with tendinitis in his pitching arm.
But Reagins said Rodney, who set career highs with 73 games and 75 2/3 innings last season, passed a physical exam, allaying concerns about his health.
"We're confident that as far as his past injuries related to his elbow, that he showed all year last year that his was durable," Reagins said. "His velocity was above average. Consistent. No effects of prior arm troubles."
With the loss of left-hander Darren Oliver to free agency and with right-hander Scot Shields' status questionable as he tries to return from knee surgery that cost him most of the 2009 season, Rodney will probably begin the season as the Angels' setup man. He also could wind up closing should Fuentes, who had a second-half ERA of 4.81 with more walks than strikeouts, falter.
Either role is fine with him, Rodney said in a conference call.
"With the quality of manager we have in Mike Scioscia," Rodney said in Spanish, "he'll have the answer to that question."
Because Rodney was a Type B free agent and offered arbitration, Detroit will receive a supplemental draft pick as compensation.
Rodney's signing will push the Angels' projected 2010 payroll to approximately $111 million, about $2 million shy of last year's figure. And though Reagins has said he hopes to keep next season's payroll "similar" to this year's, that doesn't mean his off-season shopping is over.
"We're still looking at opportunities to improve," said Reagins, who lost his leadoff hitter, Chone Figgins, and his ace starter, John Lackey, this winter. "Whether that's via free agency or via trade, there are still opportunities out there to get better. And we're going to look at those opportunities.
"But right now we feel really good about our team as it stands. With this acquisition today with Fernando Rodney, it really strengthens our bullpen and gives us not only a chance to contend but a chance to win a world championship."