One of the unintended effects of the Prince Fielder free agency taking as long as it did is that, in a lot of ways, it seems to have held up the free agent market for several players. As of Thursday morning there were still 83 major league free agents left on the market and the list was littered with names of established players.
Among those players is veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the former National, who is currently working out in Colombia and planning to return to his home in Florida in the next few days where he’ll start working out and hitting with his brother and Luis Alicea. He’s also still looking for a team.
“There’s a lot of veteran free agents who don’t have a job yet,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview. “I’m one of those. I don’t know yet.
“The only thing I can do is just keep myself in good shape and see what happens, you know? That’s basically about it. It is tough. At the same time, what you going to do? You really cannot do anything. The only thing I can tell you is that I’m in good shape. I feel pretty good.”
Rodriguez — who spent three weeks playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League alongside his son, Ivan Dereck, an outfield prospect in the Twins system — said he feels 100 percent healthy and recovered from the oblique strain that stole the majority of his entire second half in 2011. Rodriguez was 4-for-36 in 11 Winter League games, one hit a double, and knocked in two runs. After a season where he hit .218 in the major leagues during his injury-derailed season, Rodriguez said he still isn’t considering retirement and feels he has a lot left to offer plenty of teams as a backup catcher, leader in the clubhouse and mentor for both a pitching staff and young catchers — much the way he was in Washington the past two years.
“As for right now, I don’t know because February’s coming pretty soon,” he said. “I can tell you this. The way that I feel, I think I can contribute to any team pretty well. I think I have a lot left in me in baseball and I think I can support a team in so many ways: playing, helping the other catchers, helping the pitching staff.
“It’s frustrating a little bit because you see a lot of catchers that have already been signed and seeing myself still in the market and not having a firm team to discuss a contract with my agent has kind of been tough. But I know what I can do. I know what I did my whole career and what I’ve done the last two or three years — playing, doing a good job in the field and doing a good job also in the clubhouse, with the catchers and the pitching staff.”
The Nationals are obviously set at the catcher position with Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores and they have closed the door on bringing Pudge back for another tour of duty. There had been some speculation that the Miami Marlins would bring back the catcher — beloved by Marlins fans for his part in their 2003 World Series title — as another draw for their new ballpark and revamped lineup but Joe Capozzi from the Palm Beach Post shot down that thought last Friday, saying the Marlins have “no interest.”
Rodriguez is, of course, also represented by the same agent who represents Fielder, Scott Boras, so he realizes that his agent may have been preoccupied — especially recently.
Still, for whatever Pudge offers a team offensively, he still is a solid defensive catcher whose arm didn’t look like it’d lost much last year and both Ramos and Flores noted his work with them as a sounding board and leader. He’s also a draw. Rodriguez received a standing ovation from the Nationals Park crowd in his final start of the season and an even more raucous one from the Florida crowd during the final game of the year. He’s just 156 hits away from No. 3,000 so allowing him to get that milestone hit in your team’s uniform could be appealing. That being said, Rodriguez had just 27 hits in 124 at-bats in 2011 so it’s most likely going to continue to be a slow march toward 3,000 — thought it’s a milestone Rodriguez has said several times how important reaching that mark is for him.