The Orioles head into Christmas Week without a closer, but they are still in the mix for free-agent right-hander Fernando Rodney.
According to an industry source, the Orioles are one of four teams who have shown “significant interest” in the 36-year-old, who saved 85 of 95 opportunities for the Tampa Bay Rays in the past two years.
The Orioles had pursued Rodney earlier this offseason, but ultimately turned their attention to Grant Balfour, who agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the team last week before the Orioles backed out citing medical concerns after reviewing Balfour’s physical.
Since that announcement became official Friday, the intensity of Rodney’s market has unquestionably increased, the source said.
Because of his experience in the American League East, the Orioles are more interested in Rodney than any other free-agent closer, but the question is whether the club would be willing to offer a deal beyond what they nearly gave Balfour. The sense is it still may take more than two years and $15 million to get Rodney -- and that may be beyond the Orioles' comfort level.
There aren't many top closer options remaining -- considering the Balfour ship has sailed, and the Orioles seemingly have no real interest in former Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez.
But here’s a name that has at least blipped on the radar: Francisco Rodriguez.
The Orioles traded for the veteran in July (giving up minor leaguer Nick Delmonico) and then rarely used Rodriguez in high-leverage situations in the last two months of the season.
After recording 10 saves in 10 opportunities with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013, Rodriguez pitched in 23 games with the Orioles, never had a ninth-inning save opportunity and appeared in just eight “late and close” games. The Orioles weren’t comfortable with him in those scenarios.
Of the 22 innings he pitched, 12 1/3 came in the sixth or seventh innings; with 304 career saves, it seemed inevitable that he would leave Baltimore as a free agent this winter seeking a more vital role. He certainly didn’t seem happy mopping up games for a club that was in a pennant race.
According to an industry source, however, the Orioles recently reached out to Rodriguez’s camp to see if he’d at least be willing to consider a return with the Orioles’ closer situation undefined.
The sense is that it was more due diligence than anything, and it would seem a reunion with Rodriguez would be highly unlikely. But I think we all learned with the Balfour fiasco last week that the unexpected isn’t always impossible in Birdland.
Speaking of Balfour, he told Sirius XM Radio on Sunday that there are four teams interested in him, and he has one offer on the table. That’s not surprising. Balfour said he’s 100 percent healthy and two doctors from other teams (the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays) backed that assertion after reviewing those medicals.
Balfour will be in the closer’s role for someone next year -- and it will be interesting to see his reaction if he picks up a save in Camden Yards.