Will the Red Sox make waves this offseason? Boston has financial flexibility and a strong desire to bounce back from a disappointing 2022. As such, we’ll examine whether several notable free agents make sense (or don’t make sense) as the club looks to retool for 2023 and beyond.
For the second straight offseason, the Red Sox need to renovate their rotation. And for the second straight offseason, Carlos Rodón is available in Major League Baseball free agency.
Will Boston take the plunge this time around?
Rodón, who had a breakout season with the Chicago White Sox in 2021, ultimately settled for a two-year, $44 million contract with the San Francisco Giants last winter that included a player opt-out contingent upon him pitching at least 110 innings in 2022. The oft-injured starter reached that plateau with flying colors, totaling a career-high 178 frames, and thus returns to the open market having resoundingly answered questions about his durability.
This winter’s free agency class includes a pair of high-profile, perennial Cy Young candidates in Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom, but Rodón is capable of ace-like production, as well, and has youth on his side, comparatively speaking. As such, Rodón likely will be in high demand across MLB.
Let’s evaluate whether the Red Sox should jump into those waters.
Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 29 (Dec. 10, 1992)
Weight: 245 pounds
2022 stats (with San Francisco Giants)
31 appearances (all starts), 178 innings
14-8 record, 2.88 ERA, 237 strikeouts
1.028 WHIP, 2.25 FIP, 140 ERA+
12.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.56 K/BB
Career stats (eight seasons)
152 appearances (147 starts), 847 1/3 innings
56-46 record, 3.60 ERA, 947 strikeouts
1.239 WHIP, 3.59 FIP, 115 ERA+
10.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 2.97 K/BB
Why Rodón makes sense for Red Sox
Boston’s rotation lacks a true ace, and Rodón is fully capable of checking that box.
Don’t believe us? Consider this: Rodón, a two-time All-Star, had the highest strikeout rate (33.9%) among 105 major league starters with at least 200 innings pitched over the last two seasons. He ranked third in fWAR, third in SIERA and fifth in ERA — production that coincided with a fifth-place American League Cy Young finish in 2021 and a sixth-place National League Cy Young finish in 2022.
Rodón battled both injuries and inconsistency earlier in his career with the White Sox, even undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2019. But he’s been elite by nearly every metric since the beginning of 2021, and the 29-year-old’s sustained health, velocity and overall performance with the Giants in 2022 went a long way toward quelling concerns over whether he could hold up for an entire season.
Which brings us to the Red Sox, a team looking to climb the ladder in the stacked AL East after a disappointing campaign. Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill — three of Boston’s top four starters in terms of starts and innings pitched in 2022 — are free agents. And while the rotation has potential, with Chris Sale and James Paxton returning plus Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello offering upside, there’s still far too much uncertainty surrounding the unit. Adding Rodón, in his prime, would significantly raise the rotation’s (and, by extension, the team’s) ceiling for 2023 and beyond.
Why Rodón doesn’t make sense for Red Sox
Rodón, despite silencing skeptics last season, remains a high-variance pitcher due to his career-long track record. Not only did he deal with biceps, shoulder and elbow problems in Chicago, limiting him to just 43 appearances (41 starts) over a four-year stretch from 2017 to 2020, but he also was mediocre at best and awful at worst during that span. What if he folds like a lawn chair immediately after signing his next contract? MLB Trade Rumors predicted a five-year, $140 million deal for Rodón, which equates to an average of $28 million per year. No small potatoes.
The Red Sox also would need to surrender draft-pick compensation if they signed Rodón, because the veteran southpaw rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants earlier this offseason. That might not be a huge deterrent when you’re talking about an investment of this magnitude, but it’s nevertheless noteworthy and suboptimal at a time when the Red Sox, in the midst of replenishing their farm system, also must address other roster flaws.
All told, the Red Sox instead might swim in the next pool of starting pitchers, especially if they open up the checkbook to retain shortstop Xander Bogaerts, their stated priority at the onset of free agency.
Verdict: Strong fit. Just don’t bank on him landing in Boston.
Prediction: Rodón signs with the Texas Rangers.