And K-Rod's replacement is ...

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
2:30
PM ET
For Jose Arredondo, the "future" just got further away.

On Wednesday, three short weeks after losing Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets in free agency, the Angels decided upon K-Rod's replacement … and Arredondo, hailed for much of the 2008 season as the team's closer of the future, won't be the guy.

Instead, the Angels' 2009 closer shall be Brian Fuentes, who was signed to a two-year deal, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Financial terms weren't announced, but based upon reports that he was seeking in the neighborhood of $10 million per year, Fuentes probably received something close to that number.

Jose ArrendondoRon Vesely/Getty ImagesPoor Jose Arredondo. Just when it appeared he'd have major value ...
Assuming Fuentes received "closer's dollars" -- and yes, these days there is such a thing -- the full-time closer's gig likely will be his, barring injury or significant decline in performance. Arredondo, who managed 10 wins, a 1.62 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his debut season in 2008 after successfully converting to relief in the minor leagues, will presumably serve as Fuentes' top right-handed setup man.

Addressing the first risk factor with Fuentes, he's actually not much of an injury risk. He has made at least 64 appearances in each of the past four seasons while serving primarily as the Rockies' closer, only once landing on the disabled list, in 2007. Fuentes is also 33 years old, not far removed from his prime, and hadn't been abused in his Colorado days.

Addressing the second risk factor, Fuentes could be a candidate to begin declining soon, at age 33 and heading to the American League. But he did manage a career-best 1.10 WHIP in 2008 despite calling hitter-friendly Coors Field his home, and was scored upon in back-to-back games only four times in 67 appearances. The performance wasn't out of line with his 2005-07 numbers, either -- he had a 3.13 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in those three seasons combined -- which eliminates any concern of a contract-year-based fluke in 2008.

Not that Fuentes should be expected to repeat, or even come all that close to his predecessor's 2008 total of 62 saves. It was a special kind of year for K-Rod in 2008, whereas he had averaged 44 saves per season from 2005-07, a more realistic expectation for an elite closer. The Angels -- as things stand today -- might sport a similar team to last year's, pitching-rich but a bit thin on offense, so Fuentes stands a chance at topping his career best of 31 saves (set in 2005). To expect more than 40, though, would be foolish.

Call it a boost in Fuentes' value, a surprising development for a pitcher making the jump from the pitching-rich National League to the offensive-minded American League. Getting out of Coors does present some upside for the left-hander in both ERA and WHIP, and a 2.50-ERA, 1.00-WHIP, 40-save season is not out of the question. Fuentes finished ninth among closers on the 2008 Player Rater, and by all rights, he should at least match that in 2009. He'd be an ideal pick in the early/mid-rounds, say, the eighth to 10th rounds.

As for Arredondo, feel free to scratch him off your list of breakout candidates, shifting him to the "deep sleepers" list instead. He'd be a wise handcuff to Fuentes, and presents plenty of ERA/WHIP/K help to those of you who need it. Arredondo dominated left-handers (.418 OPS allowed) and was remarkably consistent from month to month, which are very promising signs for a young reliever. He might rank as one of the top setup relievers in 2009 -- keep that in mind, those of you who play in leagues that reward holds -- but his chances of saving even five games are no longer good.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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