Eduardo Rodriguez Was the Perfect Fit for Arizona in This Market

In a market where starting pitching is costing a real premium, Eduardo Rodriguez was the perfect fit to fill the Diamondbacks biggest need.

DETROIT, MI - April 8: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of Opening Day at Comerica Park on April 8, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Just after news broke of the Juan Soto trade, Jeff Passan posted that the Arizona Diamondbacks had found their starting pitcher.

The details of the signing soon became clear: Four years at $80 million, which would take Rodriguez, 30,  through the 2027 season. In addition, there is a vesting option that would raise the contract to just under $100 million should he pitch 150 innings in both 2026 and 2027.

Rodriguez also has a 10-team no-trade clause.

Was it more than the D-backs hoped to spend? Probably, yes. However, it’s clear that this is a pitchers’ market, and the D-backs accepted they would have to pay more this year for a quality starter. Don’t forget: The lack of a starter probably had a significant impact on their ability to win the World Series. There was no way general manager Mike Hazen wanted to repeat that mistake.

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Moreover, rumors have indicated that teams with trade candidates like Dylan Cease are demanding exorbitant returns. Hazen has been equally clear that he would not mortgage the team’s fortune to gain a pitcher. Signing Rodriguez comes with a few risks but many potential rewards.

Let’s start with some background

In 2010, Rodriguez was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. He worked his way through their minor-league system until being traded to the Boston Red Sox in July 2014.

In 2015, he made his MLB debut — and it’s worth pointing out that both Hazen as well as then-bench-coach Torey Lovullo were with the Red Sox at that time. During his six years with the Red Sox, Rodriguez pitched 856.2 innings for an ERA of 4.16 (110 ERA+).

He had a breakout season in 2019 and along the way experienced the kinds of injuries that any pitcher does. Then, in 2020 he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

In late July, Rodriguez learned that he had developed myocarditis and missed the shortened season. He returned in 2021 and pitched in 32 games (31 starts).

At the end of the season, he became a free agent.

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He would go on to sign a five-year, $77 million contract with the Detroit Tigers that included an opt-out as well as a limited no-trade clause. In 2022, he was placed on the IL in May and would later go take an extended leave due to a family issue until late July. He returned to the Tigers before the season ended.

In 2023, Rodriguez was in rare form — as in, one of the top pitchers in the American League — until he was sidelined by a finger injury that would cause him to miss the month of June.

He declined to be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline, citing a desire not to disrupt his family, and went on to finish the season with 26 starts and a 3.30 ERA, the best of his career, in 153 IP. In addition, he earned an HR/9 of 0.88.

When the season ended, he opted out of his contract.

In terms of his career, Rodriguez has a 4.03 ERA (112 ERA+) over 1100.1 IP.

What’s the pitch mix?

He’s got a four-seam fastball (90-94 mph), a changeup (83-85 mph), a cutter (89 mph), a sinker (92 mph), and a slider (82-85 mph), which is his knock-out pitch. He’s less a “stuff” guy than a control pitcher.

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Rodriguez pitches to contact and keeps the ball in the yard.

What does Rodriguez bring to the D-backs?

Quite a lot, actually.

First, he’s a lefty, and in a starting rotation with righties Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt, Rodriguez is a much-needed southpaw. He will also bring valuable experience to a young D-backs team. While with the Red Sox, he became familiar with the postseason, and he’s in a position to mentor fellow lefties Tommy Henry and Blake Watson.

The D-backs need a skilled pitcher to eat innings, and Rodriguez has shown he can do that.

Moreover, pitching guru Brent Strom surely has some ideas about how to improve Rodriguez’s already solid game.

Second, he is familiar with key parts of the D-backs’ organization from his days in Boston: Hazen and Lovullo as well as senior vice president Ariel Sawdaye. On one hand, this gives Rodriguez a basis of familiarity to work on as he settles in with a new team. On the other, the D-backs, who are so protective of their clubhouse culture, have gained a player that their leadership is familiar with.

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Third — and this is less measurable, but it’s important — Rodriguez has shown through his career a willingness to put his family first, and he wishes to avoid moving them. By playing for the D-backs, Rodriguez can do his offseason work and Spring Training games without moving his family from Phoenix.

Fourth, the D-backs get “E-Rod,” a name with some panache. They may not have Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s hair anymore, but, folks, E-Rod has arrived.

So, what’s next?

The deal has not actually been finalized yet though the D-backs’ social media was back in rare form Wednesday night when the rumors broke:

In signing Rodriguez, Mike Hazen continues to check off his to-do list. The D-backs needed a right-handed third baseman, so they traded for Eugenio Suárez. They needed a starting pitcher, so they signed E-Rod. Now he needs to find a right-handed bat, either in the outfield or at DH, as well as a backup catcher.

Still, Hazen has already met his most-pressing goals of the offseason as the D-backs show they intend to pick up where they left off in 2023.