The Yankees are signing top free agent starter Carlos Rodón, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter links). It’s a six-year, $162MM guarantee with a full no-trade clause, according to Heyman.
New York lands the top remaining starting pitcher available, pairing him with their record-setting deal for defending MVP Aaron Judge as part of a huge offseason. The guarantee ties that of Brandon Nimmo for the sixth-largest deal of the offseason. Rodón will finish with the second-largest deal among free agent pitchers, narrowly behind the five-year, $180MM pact Jacob deGrom inked with the Rangers.
It’s the culmination of an incredible two-season run for Rodón. The left-hander entered the professional ranks eight years ago, selected by the White Sox with the third overall pick in the 2014. Owner of a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, he was regarded as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter who’d quickly reach the big leagues. Rodón indeed found himself on Chicago’s south side by the middle of the 2015 campaign, and he 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 sidetracked by injuries. Rodón lost a chunk of the 2017 campaign to biceps bursitis, then underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery that September. He didn’t debut until June the following year, making 20 starts. Early the next season, he was diagnosed with an elbow issue. He went back under the knife in May ’19, this time undergoing a Tommy John procedure. He missed the remainder of that year, returning at the tail end of the 2020 campaign for four appearances.
The mounting injury troubles led the White Sox to decline to tender him a contract heading into 2021. Chicago circled back towards the end of the offseason, bringing him back on a $3MM free agent deal. That move was met with a fair amount of criticism, but it 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 on his way to a Cy Young award when he dealt with some shoulder fatigue in August. Rodón only missed a couple weeks and continued to pitch well upon his return, although his velocity dropped towards season’s end. The southpaw concluded the year with a 2.37 ERA and a massive 34.6% strikeout percentage across 132 2/3 innings. He placed fifth in Cy Young balloting.
The end-of-year shoulder issue and velocity dip seemed to scare the Chicago front office, however. They made the eyebrow-raising decision not to issue Rodón a qualifying offer, allowing him to hit the open market without draft compensation attached. He remained on the open market until after the lockout, when the Giants added him on a two-year, $44MM guarantee. The deal contained an opt-out clause after year one, conditional on Rodón reaching 110 innings pitched in 2022. It was an opportunity for the star hurler to bet on himself, knowing a nine-figure deal could be in the cards if he maintained his 2021 form over a fully healthy season.
Rodón did exactly that, doubling down with perhaps the best season of his career. He stayed healthy all year, making 31 starts and tallying a career-high 178 innings. Rodón worked to a sterling 2.88 ERA. He earned a second straight All-Star nod and was among the game’s best at missing bats. Rodón fanned 33.4% of opponents against a solid 7.3% walk rate. Among pitchers with 100+ innings, only Braves rookier Spencer Strider bested that strikeout percentage. Strider, Shohei Ohtani, Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole were the only pitchers with a larger gap between their strikeout and walk rates.
Almost as importantly, Rodón’s arsenal showed no ill effects after his 2021 dip. His fastball averaged a strong 95.5 MPH, making him one of the game’s harder-throwing lefty pitchers. He generated high-end spin and whiff rates on both his fastball and slider, and opposing hitters swung through a massive 14.1% of his total pitches. Rodón stifled batters from both sides of the plate; he held lefties to a .179/.257/.260 line, while batters with the platoon advantage put together just a .207/.264/.319 mark.
More to come.
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