D-backs general manager Mike Hazen went into the Winter Meetings this week thinking his club was going to be able to get something done, and while he had to work a little overtime to do it, Hazen ended up getting exactly what his team needed.
Arizona agreed agreed to a four-year contract with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the club announced on Friday. The deal is worth $80 million and includes a vesting option for a fifth year that would bring the overall value to $99 million, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand on Wednesday.
News of the deal broke after most of the team executives and media had already departed the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn., but the news is right on time for the D-backs who now have a proven veteran starter to slot in behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in the rotation.
Following injury setbacks that prevented him from fulfilling what many saw as great potential while with the Red Sox, Rodriguez finally put it all together in 2023 with the Tigers, posting a 3.30 ERA over 26 starts (152 2/3 innings).
Instead, the young hurlers will only be needed for two of the spots, which means Arizona will have starting-pitching depth. That was the D-backs' top priority this offseason after watching injuries and ineffectiveness lead to the need to throw a bullpen game in both the NL Championship Series and World Series.
Tuesday night, Hazen expressed optimism that the team would be able to come away with a starting pitcher.
“I'm confident that we are going to work very hard to make something come to fruition,” Hazen said. “When you're talking both about the free-agent market and the trade market, you know, you're at the mercy of the other teams in a lot of cases, but yeah, there’s starting pitching that is going to be available out there.”
And the D-backs wound up with one of the better ones available. The 30-year-old Rodriguez decided to become a free agent for the second time by opting out of the final three years and $49 million remaining on the five-year, $77 million deal he inked with Detroit following the 2021 season. Since he was tendered a qualifying offer by the Red Sox prior to signing with Tigers two years ago, he was ineligible for a QO this time around, meaning Detroit won’t receive Draft-pick compensation with Rodriguez signing elsewhere.
Rodriguez’s strikeout rate (23%) was up in 2023, and his walk rate (7.7%) was down. Both good signs, though his expected ERA based on quality of contact was 4.04, more than half a run higher than his actual ERA and only slightly lower than his 4.20 xERA in ’22. The barrel rate (7.5%) and the hard-hit rate (38.5%) against him, while not bad overall, were each a bit higher than in ’22, when his ERA was 4.05 in 17 starts.
The key for Rodriguez is going to be staying healthy. He’s dealt with various ailments, including elbow, finger, knee, ankle, rib cage and back injuries. In his only fully healthy season, which came with Boston in 2019, he posted a 3.81 ERA (128 ERA+) in 203 1/3 innings, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.