Rodney, Tigers finalize two-year deal

Rodney, Tigers finalize two-year deal

DETROIT -- A couple of days after agreeing to a one-year deal, the Tigers and reliever Fernando Rodney added another. Rodney now has a two-year contract worth at least $2.7 million that gives the Tigers cost certainty in their bullpen while giving the 29-year-old setup man and part-time closer some job security.

Rodney was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter after enjoying his first full, healthy Major League season in 2006 with a team-high 63 appearances. His .196 batting average allowed ranked sixth lowest among American League relievers with at least 54 innings pitched. While Rodney led the team with seven relief victories, none of them came in blown saves. He entered September with a 3.20 ERA before finishing the year at 3.52.

Rodney pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings against Oakland in the ALCS before pitching in four of the Tigers' five World Series games. He gave up two earned runs in four innings against the Cardinals, while two unearned tallies came on a throwing error in Game 4.

"Last year, he stepped up big-time, particularly in the postseason. I think he's proven to us he can pitch in the big game."

Rodney becomes the third Tiger this winter to agree to a multi-year deal and the first one out of the group of first-time arbitration eligibles. President/general manager Dave Dombrowski usually prefers to give such players one-year contracts unless there's a clear incentive for locking them up for another year. The Tigers front office usually doesn't look to lock up players beyond their free-agency years until they're eligible for arbitration for at least the second time.

Between the escalating salaries for relievers and Rodney's Tommy John elbow surgery in 2004, there was mutual interest in a multi-year contract when the season ended. Vice president and legal counsel John Westhoff said that they had a two-year agreement in place earlier in the week, but they couldn't finalize it until Rodney underwent a physical. They chose to announce a one-year, $1.05 million contract on Tuesday rather than exchange arbitration figures and continue that process.

The new deal actually lowers Rodney's salary this year to $1 million, but he'll be guaranteed $1.7 million in 2008. The key from Rodney's side is incentives if he ends up filling in at closer, which he did for the first month and a half last season while Todd Jones was on the disabled list. The escalating incentives are based on games finished, from a partial bonus for 30 games up to $1 million if he finishes 55 games this year.

"That's why we were very pleased with John Westhoff and the Tigers organization, because they've always seen the value in Fernando," said Bill Rego, Rodney's agent and president of RSM Sports Management. "They've guaranteed their upside by getting a second year, and they're granting our upside by giving us a fair incentive package."

Added Westhoff: "That was one of those deals where it made sense for [Rodney], because he wanted the security, and it made sense for us because he could make more per year if he becomes a top-flight setup man."

If Rodney were to close in 2008, after Jones' contract has expired, he can go back to arbitration the following winter as a fifth-year player. He'd be eligible for free agency as soon as after the 2009 season.

All in all, it's quite a comeback for a pitcher whose arm and career were marked by uncertainty two years ago.

"I couldn't be happier for Fernando Rodney," Rego said. "He's not only a client, but also a friend and at times a son."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.