Taking another look at the Rodriguez/Delmonico trade

The Orioles will add newly acquired Francisco Rodriguez to their bullpen for tonight’s game in Kansas City, subtracting reliever Jairo Asencio or a bench player.

Sending down Asencio would be the logical move, but MASN’s Gary Thorne suggested multiple times during last night’s broadcast that infielder Danny Valencia is more likely to be optioned.

Nothing against Asencio, but I think most of us would agree that Rodriguez is an upgrade for a team that’s trying to win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs - culminating with a World Series title.

The Orioles wanted to evaluate Asencio to determine whether they could move forward without acquiring another reliever. He hasn’t been a bust, but they just added a reliever with a 1.09 ERA in 25 games this season. A reliever with a career 2.64 ERA in 12 seasons. A reliever who once saved 62 games in a single season. A reliever who has appeared in 26 playoff games, including the 2002 World Series.

That, my friends, is an upgrade, whether Asencio stays or goes.

The Orioles played offense and defense at the same time with this trade. They improved the bullpen and kept Rodriguez away from the first-place Red Sox. The Tigers also need a closer. The Orioles have Jim Johnson, who leads the majors with 35 saves, but they wanted another late-inning reliever who can work the seventh, eighth or ninth.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette was aggressive again. He made a second trade this month without waiting until the non-waiver deadline. Without allowing teams desperate for closers to make a stronger push.

Tommy Hunter was money in the first half, but he’s allowed six runs and 10 hits in his last three outings. No reason to panic or give up on him, but Rodriguez provides manager Buck Showalter with a proven late-inning option. The bridge to Johnson just got stronger.

The Orioles gave up one of their top prospects for a possible rental. Only contenders do that - teams that are going for it. Welcome to 2013.

Rodriguez signed a minor league contract and can become a free agent after the season. His agent is Scott Boras. Remember when the Orioles wanted nothing to do with him or his clients? He’s still not a warehouse favorite, but they don’t shy away from dealing with him.

They trade Jake Arrieta and pick up another Boras client. Fills the void.

Rodriguez has posted a .214/.297/.346 line against left-handed hitters and a .192/.282/.287 line against right-handers. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s allowed a .069 batting average and .272 OPS with his changeup this season, both ranking in the top 10 in the majors with a minimum of 50 pitches.

Now, for the baggage.

While pitching for the Mets in 2010, Rodriguez was arrested and charged with third-degree assault following an altercation with his girlfriend’s father in a tunnel outside the team’s clubhouse. Earlier that year, he reportedly got into a heated exchange with bullpen coach Randy Niemann. The year before, he was involved in separate incidents with Yankees reliever Brian Bruney and former Mets executive Tony Bernazard.

In September 2012, Rodriguez was charged with domestic violence near Milwaukee after he allegedly hit and kicked the mother of his child. The charges were later dropped.

The Orioles are extremely careful about which types of personalities are funneled into their clubhouse. That’s one reason why they passed on Manny Ramirez. There must not be any concerns about Rodriguez or he wouldn’t be in the organization. Nonetheless, there will be fans who disapprove of the trade based on these incidents - especially the most recent. And who knows how he will be accepted by teammates?

The Orioles liked Nicky Delmonico’s offensive potential, but there isn’t a crying need for a corner infielder in Baltimore. Also, there were whispers about his frequent absences from the lineup. He appeared in 95 games last season at Single-A Delmarva and 60 this year at high Single-A Frederick.

The Orioles marked certain prospects as trade chips. Delmonico was one of them.

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