Red Sox News: Eduardo Rodriguez signs 5-year free agent deal with Detroit Tigers

Oct 11, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning during game four of the 2021 ALDS at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning during game four of the 2021 ALDS at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Eduardo Rodriguez is leaving the Red Sox for the Tigers

The Boston Red Sox have a hole in their starting rotation following the departure of Eduardo Rodriguez. The free agent lefty is signing a five-year, $77 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.

The contract includes up to $3 million in incentives that could potentially push the total to $80 million. Rodriguez can opt-out of the deal after the second season, a potentially pivotal provision that may have sealed the deal for the Tigers. Rodriguez will have an opportunity to test free agency again when he’s 30 years old at a point when the market should be stabilized by the new collective bargaining agreement.

Detroit’s offer comes in slightly above the $70 million that MLB Trade Rumors predicted for Rodriguez but it’s in the right ballpark for what the lefty is worth. His value had been suppressed by a 2020 season lost to myocarditis and inconsistencies as he worked his way back this year. However, his excellent 2019 campaign shows his high potential. Rodriguez would be a bargain if he can return to anything resembling that level.

At first glance, it would appear Rodriguez has a long road to get back to that level but not when you dig deeper. His 4.74 ERA wasn’t appealing but Rodriguez set career-best marks with a 3.32 FIP, 10.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. The inflated ERA was partially the result of playing behind a below-average Red Sox defense, with the left side of the infield being particularly problematic for pitchers.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez isn’t going to get more help from a Tigers defense that was bottom-five in the majors with -35 defensive runs saved. If E-Rod is looking to increase his value before opting out in two years, a rebuilding Tigers team doesn’t seem to be the ideal landing spot.

Detroit has two of the top-10 prospects in baseball, both of whom could arrive in the big leagues next season. Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene aren’t going to transform the Tigers into contenders overnight though. Detroit is probably at least a couple of years away, by which point Rodriguez might opt-out.

The Red Sox reportedly had a multi-year deal on the table for Rodriguez but we can only assume it was well short of Detroit’s offer considering how quickly he pounced on the opportunity to join the Tigers. According to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo, the multi-year extension that Boston offered midseason was basically a non-starter for negotiations that were very far apart at the time.

It’s unclear if the Red Sox improved their offer in recent weeks but it’s hard to believe they made a serious effort. The reports of the Red Sox pitching a multi-year deal to Rodriguez in addition to extending a qualifying offer smells of an information leak meant to save face for the organization by making it appear they wanted him back. Either they wildly misjudged the market for Rodriguez or they were content with collecting the compensation draft pick they will be rewarded for losing a player to free agency who declined their qualifying offer.

How this decision is viewed in retrospect depends on what the Red Sox do next to address their pitching staff.

Boston essentially has three picks in the second round of next year’s draft – their own, the compensation pick for losing Rodriguez plus the No. 41 overall pick they were given for failing to sign second-round pick Jud Fabian in this year’s draft. The extra ammunition in that round makes it easier to absorb the penalty for signing a free agent who declined a qualifying offer. If the plan is to let Rodriguez walk in order to focus on an upgrade such as Robbie Ray or Justin Verlander, it would make more sense why the Red Sox didn’t fight harder to keep the lefty in their rotation.

There are several appealing starters on the market who can be signed without sacrificing a draft pick. It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers allowing anyone to outbid them for Max Scherzer but it’s worth noting that the midseason trade that shipped him to Los Angeles made him ineligible for a qualifying offer. Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman accepted qualifying offers last year so their respective clubs couldn’t extended the offer to them again. Boston could have their cake and eat it too by spending up for a pitcher who represents an upgrade to their rotation while recouping a draft pick for letting Rodriguez walk.

The Red Sox could also explore the trade market for a starting pitcher to replace Rodriguez. They may be more comfortable unloading a few prospects in a deal since they have the extra draft picks to replenish their farm system.

Chaim Bloom has several paths he can explore to fortify the rotation. Losing Rodriguez isn’t necessarily a bad outcome if Bloom has a better alternative up his sleeve. If he ends up settling for a back of the rotation starter viewed as a downgrade from Rodriguez, we’ll have plenty of questions regarding why the Red Sox didn’t make more of an effort to match Detroit’s reasonable offer.

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