The White Sox only received 28 innings from Carlos Rodon over the season’s final two months, as the left-hander missed time due to a shoulder issue and was regularly pulled after five innings even when he was healthy enough to take the mound. Part of that is likely rooted in the White Sox’ runaway lead in the American League Central, which allowed them to take a cautious approach with the resurgent southpaw. Still, his health has been something of a question mark for the Sox in recent days.
General manager Rick Hahn told reporters today the club remains “optimistic” that Rodon “will be able to contribute and help us over the course of the next month” (Twitter link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun Times). Rodon will only pitch once during the American League Division Series, per Hahn, and they’ll assess his workload and availability on a series-per-series basis throughout the duration of their playoff run. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers adds that Rodon will throw in the bullpen tomorrow, which will give the team additional clarity on his status.
White Sox brass is currently debating whether Lucas Giolito or Lance Lynn will start the first game of the ALDS against Houston, Hahn added (Twitter link via The Athletic’s James Fegan). The GM called his two standout righties virtually “interchangeable” and said the debate will likely boil down to which they feel is better equipped to start a second time in the Division Series, if needed. Hahn also provided an update on first baseman Jose Abreu, who missed time this weekend with a non-Covid illness but is expected to be ready for workouts leading up to Thursday’s Game 1 showdown against the Astros.
The uncertainty surrounding Rodon is not only significant with regard to the imminent playoffs but also with the offseason looming. Rodon signed a one-year, $3MM deal to return to Chicago after being non-tendered and, for much of the season, was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. The 28-year-old made his first All-Star team, pitched to a 2.31 first-half ERA in 89 2/3 innings, and looked to be in the midst of breaking out as the ace the Sox hoped he could be when selecting him third overall back in 2014.
Rodon blanked the Astros over seven near-perfect frames in his first post-All-Star appearance on July 18, punching out 10 batters and lowering his ERA to 2.14. That, however, was the last time he’d throw more than five innings in a single outing this season. Rodon was on the injured list from Aug. 10-26 due to fatigue in his left shoulder, and while he was effective in his return from that IL stint, he averaged just 73.6 pitches and 4 2/3 innings per outing upon activation.
Regardless of how the postseason goes, it’d be hard for the White Sox to not give strong consideration to a qualifying offer for Rodon, who demonstrated the extent of his upside with 132 2/3 frames of 2.37 ERA ball, a 34.6 percent strikeout rate and a 6.7 percent walk rate. That’ll present Rodon with an interesting decision. Accepting a qualifying offer and then repeating that success with greater health in 2022 would position him for a massive free-agent payday. On the other hand, he’d perhaps command interest on lower-cost multi-year deals right now, and taking the one-year qualifying offer comes with the risk that further injury would sap his future market.
For now, simply performing in the postseason and giving his club the best chance possible at a deep run will be the lefty’s obvious priority. That said, he’ll be a fascinating qualifying offer and free-agent case when the time does come.