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Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Updated: December 10, 11:02 AM ET
Be careful not to overrate K-Rod


No matter how much the New York Mets or the representatives of Francisco Rodriguez tried to deny it, one couldn't ask for a better fit for the record-setting closer than to make his new home at the new Citi Field. The Mets had money and an obvious, desperate need for a prime-time closer. K-Rod wanted the money and attention. Now everyone's happy, including fantasy owners, who should feel confident a 40-save season is ahead.

Francisco Rodriguez
Francisco Rodriguez still has plenty of value, but you have to keep the expectations in check.
Of course, the problem is -- and really, aren't there always problems? -- fantasy owners will be selecting Rodriguez very early in drafts based on the premise another 62 saves are coming, not merely 40. We can't say for certain he won't deliver the same record-setting number he did for the Angels this past season, but considering how a mere nine pitchers in history have even reached the 50-save mark, prepare yourself now for the letdown. Rodriguez gets his saves, an average of 44 in his first three full seasons closing, but let's just say a perfect confluence of many factors played a role in breaking Bobby Thigpen's record.

Rodriguez wasn't fantasy's top closer in 2008 -- according to our Player Rater, had his save total been in the mid-40s he wouldn't even have been in the top 5 -- and some can make the case, by viewing walk rates and potential arm abuse, the Mets shouldn't go the extra year to sign him, but hey, he's going to save plenty o' games. Moving from the American League to the National will not hurt him, the Mets should be a playoff contender and give him opportunities. Plus, while nobody has played in the Mets' new ballpark, it's unlikely to be like Coors Field.

I ranked Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera and Brad Lidge ahead of K-Rod in my offseason Relief Efforts, and joining the Mets -- which let's face it, I had kinda figured on all along -- doesn't really change a thing. In fact, as long as Manny, Moe and Jack are K-Rod's set-up men instead of Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields, one could consider Carlos Marmol, Bobby Jenks and Joakim Soria better as well. For now, I'll assume the Mets upgrade Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano and Mr. Met for the seventh and eighth innings and someone with a track record is the main set-up guy (Brian Fuentes, maybe?).

As for the Angels, it was presumed all along K-Rod was history, which is why I ranked Arredondo No. 12 in Relief Efforts. Really, he could be the next Rodriguez, and it wouldn't shock me one bit if Arredondo has better fantasy seasons the next few years than the man he replaced.

The bottom line, I suppose, is K-Rod is going to get a lot of saves, and if you're the type who fancies closers as top-50 commodities, he's in the conversation. I make it a point to leave closers out of my top 50, and use the middle rounds on the closer middle class, so if I call Papelbon and Nathan seventh-round selections, let's say Rodriguez is a round or so later.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.