SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners reliever Fernando Rodney, hat turned slightly to the left, mingled with his former Tampa Bay rays teammates Monday afternoon behind home plate at Safeco Field.
He shook hands with Rays catcher Jose Molina and shortstop Yunel Escobar, received bear hug from head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield before receiving a hug from manager Joe Maddon.
That cap worn by Rodney might have been the same one he wore during the last two seasons, Rodney said, had the Rays made an offer.
The Rays didn’t, Rodney said, so he signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Mariners on Feb. 13 — two weeks after the Rays signed closer Grant Balfour to a two-year, $12 million deal.
“I think they gonna sign me back. They say I look for too much money. I can’t control that,” Rodney said before Monday’s game between his previous and current teams. “They never put nothing on the table.”
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman does not discuss contracts. It is believed that after saving 85 games during his two seasons in Tampa Bay — and setting a major league record in 2012 with a 0.60 ERA — Rodney’s representatives were asking for more than the deal the Rays gave Balfour.
Rodney said he had two-year offers from the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians. He said the New York Yankees offered him a one-year deal.
Rodney said there is no hard feelings. He’s enjoying life in Seattle, though he’s ready for summer to arrive in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s business,” he said. “They make it happen when they want.”
Rodney entered Monday’s action tied for the American League-lead in saves with 11. He’s blown only one save chance.
He converted his last six save opportunities heading into the series with the Rays. He has allowed at least one base runner in nine of his 12 appearances.
And when he records the final out of a save, Rodney still fires the familiar imaginary arrow skyward.
“Yes, man,” Rodney said. “Very far.”
Maddon said he loved having Rodney not only at the back of the bullpen but in the clubhouse, where Rodney was very popular with his former teammates.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Maddon said, “except when he plays us.”
The Rays signed Balfour after Balfour’s deal with the Orioles fell through when the Orioles claimed Balfour failed his physical.
“We feel fortunate that we did end up with Grant, because that wasn’t going to happen, either,” Maddon said. “The mechanics of how that all played out was kind of freakier.”
Balfour entered Monday 6-for-7 in save opportunities.
Maddon said he isn’t involved in any contract negotiations with players.
“I totally support what Andrew did,” Maddon said.
Like Rodney, Maddon also said baseball is a bottom line business.
“It’s the nature of the way this game works right now,” Maddon said. “It’s not all baseball decisions. A lot of it is business decisions, the way things slot or fit in. Sometimes you have to play that game.”