How E-Rod and Hazen's decade-long history led to deal with D-backs

December 12th, 2023

Nearly a decade of history and a lengthy meeting at last week’s Winter Meetings helped the D-backs sign to a four-year, $80 million contract, general manager Mike Hazen said on Tuesday during the left-hander’s introductory press conference at Chase Field.

“It was probably the longest player meeting I’ve ever had,” Hazen said. “This one lasted maybe two hours. We talked about a lot of things, which was incredible.”

The result was the third-largest free-agent deal in D-backs history, behind only those given to Zack Greinke ($206.5 million) and Madison Bumgarner ($85 million). Arizona, which still owes Bumgarner $14 million next season in the final year of that deal, will pay Rodriguez $14 million in 2024, $20 million in '25, $21 million in '26 and $19 million in '27. The deal includes a vesting option for a fifth year that would bring its overall value to $99 million.

It is a windfall for Rodriguez after the southpaw opted out of the remaining three years and $49 million on his contract with the Tigers, for whom he enjoyed arguably a career year in 2023, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 152 2/3 innings. It is also a strong fit for several reasons for a D-backs team seeking to fill its biggest need of the offseason.

“We’re very fortunate that he chose us,” Hazen said.

Coming off their upstart World Series appearance, the D-backs were looking for an accomplished veteran starting pitcher to fortify their already-talented rotation behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Rodriguez provides that. He is also a left-handed sinkerballer, complementing a fly-ball-heavy rotation that skewed largely right-handed.

Coming off a two-year run with Detroit -- during which he nullified a Trade Deadline deal that would’ve sent him to the Dodgers because of a desire to remain close to his family -- Rodriguez sought a free-agent destination that would maximize the time his family spent together. The D-backs, who hold Spring Training and play their home games in Arizona, provided that stability.

After two non-contending seasons with the Tigers, Rodriguez, a World Series champion in 2018 with Boston, wanted to play for a contender again. Arizona provided that, too.

“Family-wise, [the fact that] I can stay here in Arizona the whole time [from] Spring Training through the season is huge,” Rodriguez said. “That was probably the biggest reason. The second reason was I know these guys are just coming off the World Series. I know they're hungry for winning the World Series, and I want to be part of it.”

Then there is the history between Rodriguez and Arizona’s biggest decision-makers. Hazen was part of the Boston front office that acquired Rodriguez as a prospect at the 2014 Trade Deadline, in a deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles. Rodriguez debuted for the Red Sox the following year; he, Hazen and D-backs manager Torey Lovullo (then the Red Sox's bench coach) overlapped in Boston until 2017, when Hazen and Lovullo left for the desert.

That familiarity led to their meeting last week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. Hearing Hazen and Rodriguez retell it makes it clear that the fit was apparent to both sides.

“[It was about] really getting to know what made him tick in terms of why it was going to be a good fit for him into the middle-top part of our rotation and this division,” Hazen said. “We learned a lot of things through that. And I'm sure he learned some stuff about us and what we're trying to accomplish.”

Said Rodriguez: “They didn’t have to sell me too much, because I trust them back from [the] Boston [days]. That stems from the relationship we had back then.”