Carlos Rodón To Red Sox? Why Signing High-Upside Lefty Could Make Sense

Rodón finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2021

by

March 1, 2022

Will the Red Sox make a splash before Opening Day? As part of our “free agency fits” series, we’re examining whether several top players remaining on the open market make sense (or don’t make sense) as Boston builds its roster for the 2022 Major League Baseball season.

The Red Sox already made a few moves to augment their starting rotation, signing James Paxton, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill before the MLB lockout.

Paxton still is recovering from Tommy John surgery, though, and Boston lost Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency. So, the Red Sox theoretically could look to add another starter before Opening Day.

Might Carlos Rodón fit the bill?

Rodón is coming off a career-best season with the Chicago White Sox in which he earned an All-Star selection and finished fifth in American League Cy Young voting. He also threw a no-hitter in April.

That said, those highs came with a few lows, which presumably will impact Rodón’s market, to the point where it’s nearly impossible to project his next contract. Basically, whichever team signs Rodón will do so knowing the left-hander carries both upside and risk.

Let’s examine.

Info
Position: SP
Age: 29 (Dec. 10, 1992)
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 245 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

2021 stats
24 appearances (all starts), 132 2/3 innings
13-5 record, 2.37 ERA, 185 strikeouts
0.96 WHIP, 2.65 FIP, 183 ERA+
12.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 5.14 K/BB

Career stats
121 appearances (116 starts), 669 1/3 innings
42-38 record, 3.79 ERA, 710 strikeouts
1.30 WHIP, 3.94 FIP, 110 ERA+
9.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 2.66 K/BB

Why Rodón makes sense for Red Sox:
Rodón might have the highest ceiling of any starting pitcher remaining on the open market — unless, of course, you count the peaks of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, two former Cy Young Award winners in the twilight of their respective careers.

If Rodón performs up to his potential, he could provide ace-like production, much as he did in Chicago for a good chunk of 2021. Among MLB starters who pitched at least 130 innings last season, Rodón ranked first in ERA (2.37), second in strikeout rate (34.6%) and fourth in SIERA (2.96).

Add that to a Red Sox rotation that includes a fully healthy Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, and you’re cooking with gas. Rodón could offset the loss of Rodriguez, a fellow southpaw — and then some. The 2014 No. 3 overall pick throws hard and racks up strikeouts. He’s filthy when he’s on.

Now, some teams might not have the stomach for shelling out big bucks to a pitcher with health concerns and a limited track record. Understandable. But those questions should limit the number of years Rodón receives on his next contract, opening the door for a team with deep pockets — like the Red Sox — to possibly sign the 29-year-old to a short-term deal with a high average annual salary.

MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes projected back in November, for instance, that Rodón would sign a one-year, $25 million contract, with an eye toward proving his health and establishing his value for another run at free agency next offseason.

If that’s the case, and the Red Sox are comfortable exceeding the luxury tax threshold in 2022 with an abundance of money coming off the books in 2023, Rodón definitely makes for an intriguing target. The White Sox didn’t extend a qualifying offer and signing him therefore wouldn’t require Boston to surrender draft-pick compensation.

The signings of Paxton, Wacha and Hill only strengthen the argument for signing Rodón, as the Red Sox’s newfound depth gives them a higher tolerance for injury risk.

Why Rodón doesn’t make sense for Red Sox:
The aforementioned concerns: health and track record.

Rodón seemed to wear down last season, which had an adverse effect on his velocity. He still managed to perform well when healthy down the stretch, but he’s dealt with biceps, shoulder and elbow issues in the past, even requiring Tommy John surgery in May 2019.

The White Sox non-tendered Rodón in December 2020 before ultimately bringing him back on a one-year, $3 million contract in January 2021. His numbers across six injury-plagued seasons from 2015 to 2020 — 29-33, 4.14 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.38 WHIP and 8.8 K/9 in 97 appearances (92 starts; 536 2/3 innings) — were much more modest than those he posted in 2021.

Basically, Rodón could be one of the best pitchers in baseball moving forward. Or he could get hurt. Or he could just stink. There’s such a wide range of outcomes that it’s difficult to justify putting too many eggs in that basket, unless you’re well equipped to weather the storm should things go south.

Rodón probably would fit best in a six-man rotation. It’s unclear whether the Red Sox would consider such, although they have enough viable starting options right now with Sale, Eovaldi, Wacha, Hill, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock.

Verdict: Good fit.

Prediction: Rodón signs with the Detroit Tigers.

Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images
Syndication: Detroit Free Press
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