The Yankees are signing the best free agent starter Carlos Rodónreports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Chirping links). It’s a six-year, $162 million guarantee with a full no-trade clause, according to Heyman.
New York gets the best starting pitcher left available, pairing him with their record-breaking defense MVP contract Aaron Judge as part of a huge offseason. The warranty binds that of Brandon Nimmo for the sixth-biggest deal of the offseason. Rodón to finish second-largest deal among free agent pitchers, just behind $180 million five-year deal Jacob de Grom signed with Rangers.
It is the culmination of an incredible two-season run for Rodón. The lefty entered the pro ranks eight years ago, being drafted by the White Sox with the third overall pick in 2014. The owner of a mid-’90s fastball and a wipeout slider, he was considered a potential top-of-the-line starter of rotation that would quickly reach the big leagues. Indeed, Rodón found himself on Chicago’s south side midway through the 2015 season and posted a 3.90 ERA in 304 1/3 innings through the end of the following season.
Unfortunately, the Miami native’s career was then sidelined by injuries. Rodón missed part of the 2017 season with biceps bursitis, then underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder in September. He didn’t debut until June of the following year, making 20 starts. Early the following season, he was diagnosed with an elbow problem. He went back under the knife in May ’19, this time undergoing a Tommy John procedure. He missed the rest of the year, returning at the end of the 2020 season for four appearances.
Growing injury problems led to the White Sox refusing to offer him a 2021 contract. Chicago stormed back late in the offseason, bringing him back with a $3 million free agent deal. That move was met with a fair amount of criticism, but turned into one of the best moves of GM Rick Hahn’s tenure.
Rodón was brilliant in 2021, earning his first All-Star nod with a 2.31 ERA over 89 2/3 innings. He looked well on his way to a Cy Young award when he dealt with some shoulder strain in August. Rodón only missed a couple of weeks and continued to pitch well upon his return, although his pace slowed towards the end of the season. The lefty finished the year with a 2.37 ERA and a whopping 34.6% strikeout percentage over 132 2/3 innings. He finished fifth in the Cy Young ballot.
However, the year-end shoulder problem and speed drop seemed to scare the Chicago front office. They made the eyebrow-raising decision not to present Rodón with a qualifying offer, allowing him to hit the open market without an attached draft fee. He remained on the open market until after the lockout, when the Giants added him with a two-year, $44 million guarantee. The deal contained an opt-out clause after the first year, provided Rodón reaches 110 innings pitched in 2022. It was an opportunity for the star pitcher to gamble on himself, knowing a nine-figure deal could be in the offing. cards if he kept his 2021 form in a completely healthy season.
Rodón did exactly that, doubling up with perhaps the best season of his career. He remained healthy all year, making 31 starts and logging in a career-high 178 innings. Rodón worked to a £2.88 ERA. He earned a second consecutive All-Star nod and was among the best in the game in missing bats. Rodón fanned 33.4% of opponents against a solid 7.3% walk rate. Among pitchers with 100+ innings, only the Braves rookie Spencer Strider he beat that strikeout percentage. striders, Shohei Ohtani, Max Schezer And Gerrit Cole they were the only pitchers with a larger gap between their strikeout and walk rates.
Almost as importantly, Rodón’s arsenal has shown no ill effects after his 2021 decline. His fastball averaged 95.5 MPH, making him one of the toughest left-handed pitchers in the game. He generated top-end spin and puff on both his fastball and slider, and opposing batters swung through a whopping 14.1 percent of his total pitching. Rodón choked batters from both sides of the plate; he kept lefties to a line of .179 / .257 / .260, while hitters with the platoon lead mustered only a .207 / .264 / .319 mark.
A second season of elite performance, this one sans health concerns, cemented the 30-year-old as one of the sport’s best pitchers. His career took a more tortuous path than expected when he was drafted, but Rodón became a full-time starter. He will be rewarded as such, joining Cole as co-ace in the Bronx.
Now it looks like a potentially elite Yankee rotation. New York watched Jameson Taillon part but is updated with the addition of Rodón. They will be supported by a breakout hurler Nestor Cortes, Louis Severino And Frankie Montas. The latter two pitchers have had some injury woes over the past few seasons, but are overqualified as fourth and fifth starters if healthy. Domingo German, Clarke Schmidt and perspective Randy Vasquez they’re close at hand as depth options who could step in if a top-five starter gets injured.
Rodón was one of three aces available in free agency, along with deGrom and Justin Verlander. As the youngest of that trio, it always seemed likely that he would secure the longest deal. The six-year tenure will be the longest for any pitcher this winter, though deGrom’s five-year contract and stronger-than-expected market for midfield starters have led to rumors that Rodón’s camp was seeking a seven-year deal years that would have exceeded $200MM. It falls well short of that lofty hope, but the six-year, $162 million commitment is still strong enough for a pitcher.
It’s the first six-year commitment for a free agent pitcher since Cole and Stephen Strasbourg pushed to nine and seven, respectively, during the 2019-20 offseason. Patrick Corbin ($140 million) and Yu Darvish ($120 million) are the only other open market pitchers to reach six years into the 2016 campaign. Early in the offseason, MLBTR pitched Rodón to a five-year, $140 million deal.
And there’s more.