Detroit Tigers sign SP free agent Eduardo Rodriguez – contract details and why we love this move
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have would have made the first big splash MLB free agency, signing the starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the best lefties on the market.
Tigers fans should take this as a harbinger that the front office is serious about spending and building a contender in the offseason. Rodriguez, 28, fills one of the team’s biggest needs in the middle of the starting rotation.
Through several baseball insiders, Rodriguez’s contract is worth $ 77 million over five years, which would give him an average annual value of $ 15.4 million.
Rodriguez is said to have a no-trade clause, as well as a opt-out option after two seasons. If he decides to step down after 2023, that likely means the Tigers have had excellent production for two seasons. If he doesn’t, he stays in Detroit until 2026. It’s a win-win.
There are also performance incentives built into the contract that could make the business even more lucrative, according to reports.
Since the Boston Red Sox made a qualifying offer to Rodriguez last week, the Tigers will have to send them compensation for the draft.
READ: How Final MLB Qualifying Offer Decisions Will Affect Detroit Tigers In Free Agency
For now, Rodriguez is expected to be the second-highest-paid player on the payroll in 2022, behind only Miguel Cabrera, who will earn $ 32 million each of the next two seasons before becoming a free agent.
Why the Tigers loved Rodriguez
A casual baseball fan who sees this news and takes a look at Rodriguez’s stats from last season might wonder why the Tigers wanted him so badly. He posted a 4.74 ERA and a 1.389 WHIP in 157.2 innings with the Red Sox – not exactly a production of $ 15.4 million per year.
But Rodriguez was one of the league’s most unlucky pitchers. His 3.32 FIP (Field Independent Launcher), 3.43 xFIP (Expected FIP), 3.55 xERA (Expected ERA), and 3.64 SIERA (Interactive Skills ERA) all suggest that Rodriguez threw a lot, well. better than his final ERA. If you don’t like advanced stats, these numbers basically mean that, based on his ability to miss bats and the quality of contact he allows, Rodriguez should have had an ERA in the range of 3.50.
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For four consecutive seasons (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021), Rodriguez posted a strike rate of between 11.1% and 11.7%. He’s not an elite dud, but combined with his other skills, this rate is high enough to be effective.
Rodriguez is adept at calling himself catches, which is part of the reason he hit 10.6 batters per nine innings with an 11.7% strike rate in 2021. His high strikeout rate and low strike rate walking (2.7 goals per nine innings) are perhaps the main reasons he underlying numbers look so healthy.
The 28-year-old has also established himself as a reliable ground ball pitcher, with ground ball rates of 48.5% in 2019 and 43.2% in 2021. (Rodriguez missed the entire 2020 season in due to a severe case of myocarditis caused by COVID-19.)
Any starter who combines a high strikeout rate with a high ground ball rate has major potential, and that’s what the Tigers are banking on with Rodriguez.
Along with the implied positive regression Rodriguez is expected to see based on his performance, this is also a massive park upgrade.
Outside of Coors Field, Rodriguez could have pitched in the worst possible situation for a southpaw with average fast ball speed. According to Statcast Park Factors, Fenway Park was the second worst MLB pitching site on a three-year moving average.
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In 78 career appearances at his home baseball stadium, Rodriguez had a 4.30 ERA and a 1.332 WHIP. His career road numbers: A 4.04 ERA and 1.294 WHIP.
He’s only made three career starts at Comerica Park, allowing five runs in 15 innings (3.00 ERA) with a WHIP of 1.267 and 19 strikeouts. These figures are excellent, but the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions.
But just looking at Rodriguez’s profile, it makes sense that he could excel in Detroit. Aside from being a ground ball launcher, swapping the green monster and the short right corner of the pitch for the deep fairways of Comerica Park can only help when Rodriguez makes mistakes.
Rodriguez ranks in the 87th percentile in terms of hard contact clearance, so he should keep the ball in the court more often in Detroit.
How it fits
Rodriguez joins a trio of rookies – Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning – in the 2022 starting rotation. Performances will dictate where he fits exactly, but there’s a chance he’s at the top, just two. years of a 2019 season of 6.1 WAR (wins over substitution) in which he finished sixth in the Cy Young awards vote.
Mize finished 2021 with 3.3 WAR and Skubal finished with 1.7 WAR. Rodriguez, even as unlucky as he was, posted 1.9 WAR, suggesting he might get behind Mize for now.
Al Avila is off to a great start this offseason, but he still has at least two things left to check off the list: another starting pitcher and, of course, a star shortstop. If those dominoes fall, the Tigers will start looking like a playoff contender as early as next season.
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