The Milwaukee Brewers got a quick start on the second half, picking up a big-time closer.
The NL Central co-leaders acquired former all-star reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets on Tuesday night, boosting the Brewers' bullpen for a second-half run at the playoffs.
The trade was announced only a half-hour after the all-star game, with the Mets sending K-Rod and cash to Milwaukee for two players to be named.
Most likely, more trades all over the majors will follow before the July 31 deadline for making deals without waivers. And this swap was yet another sign the Brewers are going all in this season.
Milwaukee is tied with St. Louis for the NL Central lead, and John Axford of Simcoe, Ont., has done well as its closer with 23 saves. The Brewers, however, have had trouble finding steady setup men.
"Francisco has been one of the best relievers in the game for many years," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. "He is a high-quality arm who will be a tremendous asset to our bullpen as we prepare for the final months of the regular season and playoffs."
The Brewers traded for top starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the off-season. They've made the playoffs just once since winning the American League pennant in 1982, and are faced with the prospect of watching star slugger Prince Fielder leave via free agency after the season.
Fielder was the MVP of the all-star game, hitting a three-run homer in the National League's 5-1 victory.
"That is a really big trade. He can really help us, he is a great player. It definitely gives us a spark. We are in first place now and getting him gives us a little more help," Fielder said.
"He is going to bring the success he has had in his career, his confidence. He is going to keep doing what he is doing. You can't go wrong when you get that kind of talent. You can never have too many guys. No discredit to Axford at all, but to get him, too, is great," he said.
The 29-year-old Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 3.16 ERA and 23 saves, a year after a fracas with a family member at Citi Field led to his arrest, an injury and the early end of his season. He is a four-time all-star and set the single-season saves record with 62 in 2008 with the Angels.
Rodriguez has a contract clause that guarantees him US$17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games this year. The right-hander has currently finished 34 and is on pace to achieve the mark, though he may not get ample chances to do that with the Brewers.
"As a player, you appreciate it because you are going out there every day. When management does a move like … they are trying their best to help as much as they can," Fielder said.
"If we got a shot we know [Melvin] is going to do something to get that extra push. If we play hard and we have a shot, he is going to do everything he can," he said. "It is a great night."
New York is 46-45 in the NL East and 11 games behind Philadelphia and 7 ½ behind Atlanta in the wild-card race. This was the first major trade for general manager Sandy Alderson since taking over the Mets in the off-season and there could be more after the break, with high-priced all-stars Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes heading toward free agency following the season.
"We thank Frankie for his contributions to the Mets and wish him well with the Brewers," Alderson said. "This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief as well."
Rodriguez is in his 10th major league season. He is 32-27 with 291 saves and a 2.54 ERA with the Angels and Mets, who signed him as a free agent after his record-setting year.