Two offseasons after signing a five-year, $77 million deal to join the Detroit Tigers, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is once again a free agent, having triggered his player opt-out following the second year of his contract.
Rodriguez’s first season in Detroit was disappointing, as stints on the injured and restricted lists limited him to just 17 starts. However, he bounced back in his second campaign with the Tigers, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, 3.66 FIP and a 3.0 fWAR across 26 starts.
Rodriguez is probably more likely to pitch 155 innings than 200, and it will be interesting to see if any teams have reservations about him after he used his no-trade clause to block a midseason deal that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Still, Rodriguez opted out of the remaining three years and $49 million on his deal with Detroit, and presumably, his representation at Mato Sports Management advised him that there would be more out there on the open market.
Indeed, in our Just Baseball free-agent predictions, I projected that Rodriguez would land a four-year, $80 million deal in free agency. Here are five potential teams that could make the 30-year-old such an offer.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have already signed Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn this offseason, so it would be fair to question whether they plan to make another sizable investment in free agency.
However, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says they are still interested in trading for Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease. While Cease would be a more notable addition, trading for him would mean giving up prospect capital for only two guaranteed seasons before he becomes eligible for free agency. Signing Rodriguez would be another rotation upgrade and wouldn’t require dipping into the farm system.
Boston Red Sox
Rodriguez spent parts of eight seasons in the Red Sox organization, winning a World Series in 2018 and finishing sixth in Cy Young voting the following year. Perhaps a reunion is in the cards?
All five projected members of the Red Sox’s 2024 rotation finished the 2023 campaign with an ERA over 4.00. Bringing E-Rod back wouldn’t be enough for the fifth-place Red Sox to erase the 23-game gap between them and the Baltimore Orioles in AL East. Still, it would be a nice start for new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow as he attempts to return the Red Sox to their former glory.
New York Mets
On November 29, Metsmerized Online’s Mike Mayer reported that the Mets have shown interest in Rodriguez in free agency.
The Mets traded away future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer this past summer, with the premise that the team would probably take a step back in 2024. However, it appears that under new president of baseball operations David Stearns, the Mets are going to try and win this upcoming season – without subtracting from an increasingly impressive farm system.
Acquiring pitching via the free-agent market, as opposed to trades, would be the best way to balance those two priorities. They’ve already signed Luis Severino, and they are seemingly players for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but this team can use all the starting pitching it can get.
Owner Bob Castellini has pinched pennies in recent years, as evidenced by the Reds’ minimal salary commitments for the 2024 season. However, the 82-year-old reportedly plans to open up the checkbook this offseason, following a winning campaign in 2023.
On a team with a ton of young talent, the Reds could compete for the NL Central and/or an NL Wild Card spot if they add a veteran arm to their rotation. There is a lot to like about the young quartet of Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott and Nick Lodolo, even if their 2023 statistics don’t necessarily reflect that. Meanwhile, new addition Nick Martinez was effective over 110 1/3 innings pitched this past season.
It takes more than five starters to get through an MLB season, and adding the established presence of Rodriguez could help the Reds return to the postseason for the first time in a full season since 2013.
The Diamondbacks were thrilled that Brandon Pfaadt came of age in the postseason, but even still, it was clear for much of their magical playoff run that they didn’t have enough rotation depth behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
Rodriguez would give the Snakes a legitimate No. 3 starter for a postseason series, and perhaps help Arizona to close the gap with the Dodgers in the NL West. He could also serve as insurance for the aforementioned Kelly, who turned 35 in October and can become a free agent after the 2024 season.
Perhaps the biggest question here will be whether Rodriguez — who blocked a trade to the Dodgers last summer and resides with his family in Miami — would be willing to live in Phoenix during the season. He has informed teams that he has no geographic restrictions (per Jon Morosi of MLB Network), but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t prefer to play closer to home.