Red Sox News: Eduardo Rodriguez loses arbitration case

Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez reportedly lost his arbitration case and will settle for the salary that the team offered.

Eduardo Rodriguez‘s paycheck from the Boston Red Sox will be a bit lighter than he expected this season.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Rodriguez lost his arbitration case on Wednesday. The lefty asked for $8.975 million but will have to settle for the $8.3 million that the team offered.

Rodriguez had a career year in 2019, winning 19 games while posting a 3.81 ERA and 9.4 K/9. He finished sixth on the ballot for AL Cy Young voting.

Arbitration-eligible players can negotiate their salary for the upcoming season but they lack the leverage of free agents. They remain under team control, so if the sides can’t come to an agreement it doesn’t mean they can simply take their talents elsewhere. If negotiations remain locked in a stalemate by the deadline, a panel of arbitrators decides whether to side with the player or the team.

The best arm in Boston’s injury-plagued rotation last season will be a bargain for the suddenly frugal Red Sox. That was going to be the case regardless of how the arbitration panel ruled since the process is designed to be team-friendly. MLB players are underpaid for the first six-plus years of their career until they earn the right to test free agency.

Production on the field is only a portion of how salaries are determined for arbitration-eligible players. Service time and the precedent set by their peers are also significant factors. Rodriguez was always expected to earn less than the veteran teammates he outperformed last season.

That being said, it’s a mild shock that Rodriguez lost this case. The typically accurate estimates provided by MLB Trade Rumors projected E-Rod to earn $9.5 million.

The New York Mets avoided arbitration with Noah Syndergaard in his second year of eligibility with a 1-year, $9.7 million deal, similar to what Rodriguez was projected for. Thor has a longer track record of success (plus a much cooler nickname) but Rodriguez pitched significantly better last season and his 9.0 WAR over the last two years tops Syndergaard’s 6.4 WAR over that time frame.

James Paxton earned $8.575 million from the New York Yankees last season in his second year of arbitration. His 12.9 career WAR falls short of the 13.7 WAR Rodriguez has produced with less service time and Paxton has never come close to the 6.0 WAR that E-Rod was valued at last season.

How is Rodriguez getting paid less than these guys?

Considering the Red Sox cleared plenty of room in the budget with their blockbuster deal with the Dodgers, it’s a bit surprising that they fought over a relatively small differential. Or that they couldn’t work out a multi-year extension, similar to the one they agreed to with Andrew Benintendi. Perhaps they still will. At the moment, this news appears to be a win for John Henry’s wallet and that’s about it.

Next: Limited options to spend on in 2021

Boston’s payroll now stands at about $196 million, leaving them comfortably below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold with enough wiggle room to find a fifth starting pitcher or make mid-season acquisitions.

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