Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez undergoes knee surgery

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 14: Eduardo Rodriguez
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 14: Eduardo Rodriguez /

Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez underwent surgery on his right knee that threatens his availability to start the 2018 season.

It was only about a week ago that Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters that there were no plans for anyone on the roster to have surgery this offseason. Apparently, a lot has changed since then.

Eduardo Rodriguez becomes the latest Red Sox player to go under the knife. He joins reliever Robby Scott, who had elbow surgery last week, and Hanley Ramirez, who revealed through his Twitter account on Tuesday that he’s having shoulder surgery.

The Red Sox announced that Rodriguez underwent a right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction. He isn’t expected to resume pitching for six months, which makes it unlikely that he’ll be ready to begin the 2018 season. That timetable would place the beginning of his throwing program sometime in April, essentially setting the start of his spring training around the same time the Red Sox will begin the regular season. Barring a setback, the best case scenario for Rodriguez joining the rotation would be late-May or early-June.

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Uncertainty regarding how much they can count on Rodriguez may make the Red Sox unexpected players in the starting pitcher free agent market. They’ll enter next season with Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello as locks for the rotation. Despite the success that David Price had in the bullpen late this season, we can assume he’ll convert back to being a starter in 2018. He has too much upside and is paid far too much money to settle into a long reliever role.

That still leaves the Red Sox in need of a fifth starter. They could look to bring Doug Fister back as a low-cost back of the rotation option. While inconsistent during his brief time in Boston, Fister did show flashes of being a trustworthy option.

Steven Wright could be a candidate if he makes a successful return from shoulder surgery that ended his season after only five starts. Just don’t expect the knuckleball pitcher to regain his surprise All-Star form of 2016. Brian Johnson is an option the Red Sox turned to for a handful of spot starts this year but he’s shown little in his brief time in the majors to convince the team that he’s ready to be counted on as more than emergency depth.

If Boston decides to ignore the luxury tax threshold and splurge on a free agent this winter the expectation is that they’ll focus on a power hitter to anchor the lineup. That probably rules out the idea of them chasing a top-tier free agent pitcher, such as Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. If they strike out on their top hitter targets then perhaps they’ll pivot toward adding another ace to an already formidable top of the rotation.

Given that Rodriguez will eventually return and the organization remains high on his long-term ceiling, the smart bet is that they’ll try to get by with one of their underwhelming internal options or sign a cheap back of the rotation free agent. Their familiarity with Fister may make him the top option, although Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb or Marco Estrada could provide greater upside.

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Rodriguez has a long history of knee issues that have plagued him throughout his career. Hopefully, this surgery will put an end to it and allow him to develop into the pitcher the Red Sox project him to be.