PITTSBURGH -- Maybe one day years from now, the Eduardo Rodriguez trade will be viewed in the same group as the Juan Gonzalez extension or the Carl Pavano signing, moves that Tigers fans can thank fate never happened. Or maybe we’ll be left to wonder which Dodgers prospects would have helped Detroit rebound had the trade gone through.
How Rodriguez performs over the next couple of months, and what happens at season’s end, will have a lot to do with how his potential trade goes down in history. Yet to watch Rodriguez work through the Pirates' lineup Wednesday afternoon for six innings in a 6-3 win to salvage a series split at PNC Park would’ve given no indication of any drama from the day before.
“What happened outside the lines, I can't control,” Rodriguez said. “The only thing I can control is to go out there and pitch, and I always prepared myself for the start. I wanted to prepare the best in bullpens, workouts, everything, just keep myself in shape to be able to go out there and pitch.”
Rodriguez did what he has done for most of the season, limiting damage from an opposing offense and giving Detroit a chance to win. The Tigers did their part with a three-run fourth inning to support Rodriguez on his way to his third win in four starts and his seventh of the season, matching last year’s team high shared by Tarik Skubal and Alex Lange.
Rodriguez did it all in a manner that suggested business as usual, an approach that turned what could have been an awkward situation in a young clubhouse into a potentially stabilizing boost for a young club.
“Eduardo was very consistent with his personality, his approach, his day-to-day communication with me and [pitching coach Chris Fetter] on preparing for the start,” said manager A.J. Hinch, who originally had Rodriguez on turn to pitch Tuesday before moving him back a day last week.
Rodriguez readied for his start the entire time he was weighing a potential deal to the Dodgers, all the way up to his day-before-start routine on Deadline day. All the while, Alex Faedo was on standby, ready to step in and start had the deal gone through.
Instead, Faedo and catcher Donny Sands headed two hours north and started Wednesday afternoon for Double-A Erie, Faedo's first SeaWolves appearance in four years. He could still rejoin the Tigers to fill Michael Lorenzen’s old rotation spot next week.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, remains with Detroit at least through this season. In explaining his decision, he sounded like someone prepared to stay a lot longer than that.
“If I had a magic ball and I could tell you what's going to happen in the future, I'd probably tell you right away. But right now, I'm here,” he said. “I'm with this organization, and I signed here for a long time to stay here. I feel happy with everything. My family feels happy in Detroit. I feel happy with the team and the organization, so I'd love to stay here.”
Technically, Rodriguez is signed through 2026. His uncertain status comes from an opt-out clause he can exercise at season’s end. That, plus a limited no-trade clause that required his approval for deals to 10 teams, put restrictions on his market.
“We went through all the conversations,” Rodriguez said of his communication with the Tigers and president of baseball operations Scott Harris. “We discussed a couple teams, and ultimately, my decision was to stay here, which is the best for me and my family and my future. Everybody was really good about it. They talked to me, and I talked to them.”
Rodriguez didn’t specify why he decided not to approve a trade to Los Angeles, but he said he didn’t feel comfortable with the details.
"It's nothing against the Dodgers or the West Coast or whatever,” he said. “It's just about the details to go out there and where my family is. My future is where they're happy and I'm happy, and that's why I decided to stay here. It has nothing to do with the Dodgers."
Rodriguez’s agent, Gene Mato, released a statement Wednesday evening regarding his client’s decision to not approve the Dodgers trade:
“I negotiated a no-trade clause in his contract for a reason. With all of the money, glamour and fame that comes with being a professional athlete there is also a very difficult, personal side. Many players’ wives and their children suffer a lot of instability in their lives, especially when their spouses get traded. I do not take that lightly.
“Eduardo is one of the best left-handed starting pitchers in baseball but he is also a human being who wants stability for his family. They are comfortable living in the Detroit area and have adjusted well.
“As for the Dodgers in particular, once I was granted permission to speak with them regarding the trade, we did our best to come up with a way to make it happen where everyone was comfortable with the outcome. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time.”
That Rodriguez could weigh all that while preparing to start for a team that was in talks to trade him said a lot about his focus. That helped calm a clubhouse that had been through what Zack Short called “a long, weird day.”
“He’s done this his whole career,” Short said of Rodriguez. “He’s a guy we can lean on.”
That feeling appears to be mutual.
“I love the guys here, and I feel like they love me, too,” Rodriguez said. “I'm really happy to stay here and continue to be in the organization and help the most I can with the young guys and go out there every five days and be part of it. I know we have a really good team, and we have a really good future over here with the young guys. I want to be part of it, and that's why I decided to stay here, too.”