1. Francisco Rodriguez
It may seem odd to rank a player with a 0.6 WAR as Avila’s top acquisition from 2016, but the Tigers desperately needed a closer.
During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Detroit relied on Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria respectively as the team’s closers. Nathan pitched to a 4.81 ERA in 58 innings while Soria’s FIP was an unsightly 4.87.
In other words, the Tigers really needed Francisco Rodriguez to lock things down in the ninth inning—and lock things down he did.
Over 58.1 innings, the veteran recorded 44 saves while striking out 8.02 batters per nine innings. Despite not being the flamethrower he once was, Rodriguez was generally brilliantly effective for the Tigers. For the first time in years, there was a growing sense of calm when Detroit’s closer entered the ballgame.
Acquired for a prospect in Javier Betancourt who was blocked by as many as five different players on the organizational depth chart, the trade was an obvious win for Al Avila and the Detroit Tigers.
Hopefully, Rodriguez will return next season to give Detroit a chance at postseason baseball. Detroit’s bullpen was solidified with the addition of the closer, and it could be even more effective if the team adds another late-inning arm.
The idea of a Francisco Rodriguez/Kenley Jansen two-headed monster is particularly intriguing.
All in all, Rodriguez was Avila’s best acquisition of the last year. Upton and Maybin made it close, but Detroit had a need at the back end of the bullpen—a need the man known as K-Rod filled.