The Dodgers and Twins are each facing some uncertainty in their rotations and are giving some consideration to lefty Carlos Rodón. Jon Heyman of The New York Post mentions the Dodgers as suitors while Dan Hayes and Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic report the interest of the Twins.
The interest in Rodón isn’t surprising, given his excellent two-year run of success. After injuries severely limited him in 2019 and 2020, Rodón posted a 2.37 ERA with the White Sox in 2021, along with a 34.6% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate. Rodón didn’t completely erase the injury concerns, as he went on the IL due to shoulder fatigue and only logged 132 2/3 innings on the year.
Those concerns were enough that the Sox didn’t issue him a qualifying offer. The Giants gave him a two-year, $44MM deal but one that allowed him to opt out after the first year if he hit 110 innings. He soared past that mark, finishing at 178 innings with a 2.88 ERA, 33.4% strikeout rate and 7.3% walk rate.
He received and rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants but still was listed as the top pitcher on MLBTR’s list of the top free agents this offseason. Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander will likely earn stronger annual salaries but will be limited to shorter pacts because of their ages. Rodón won’t turn 30 until next month and was predicted for a five-year deal worth $140MM, an average annual value of $28MM.
For the Dodgers, their uncertainty comes from a couple of factors. One is that Walker Buehler required Tommy John surgery in August and will likely miss all of the 2023 campaign. Secondly, they could potentially lose a couple of rotation members in free agency. Tyler Anderson already rejected their qualifying offer and signed with the Angels, while Andrew Heaney is still unsigned.
Despite that, the rotation is still in good shape, with Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May likely taking the first four spots. However, May just returned from his own Tommy John recovery in August and only made six starts down the stretch. Urias and Kershaw are both slated to reach free agency a year from now, with the latter seemingly giving some consideration to retirement every winter. Given all those question marks, an investment in the rotation makes plenty of sense.
A lengthy commitment to a starting pitcher would be a change in M.O. for the club, however. It appears that the last time they gave a starter more than three years was the four-year deal given to Brandon McCarthy prior to the 2015 season. They’ve generally preferred to find hidden gems on short-term deals, like the one-year pacts they gave to Anderson and Heaney going into 2022.
However, they’ve cleared a lot of payroll space this winter, meaning a big strike can’t be ruled out. Roster Resource currently pegs their 2023 payroll at $152MM, with a CBT number of $168MM. They could add about $60MM to next year’s spending and still be under the first luxury tax threshold, which will be $233MM in 2023. They will surely be considering doing some spending on a shortstop or perhaps Aaron Judge. But given that they had an Opening Day payroll of $281MM in 2021, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, they have enough dry powder to go after just about anyone they want.
The Twins can hardly match the Dodgers when it comes baseball’s financial hierarchy. However, they are in a good position to be more aggressive than some might expect. Their future commitments are pretty close to zero, with Byron Buxton the only player on the books for 2024 and beyond. For 2023, Roster Resource only counts $98MM in commitments at the moment, well shy of last year’s $134MM Opening Day figure, per Cot’s. There’s certainly room for a big contract of some kind, though the club’s first order of business might be seeing how Carlos Correa responds to their creative contract offers.
If a deal can’t be worked out with Correa, pivoting to Rodón makes sense given their rotation picture. They have lots of options on hand but they all come with uncertainty. Sonny Gray posted a 3.08 ERA in 2022 but injuries limited him to 24 starts and he’s a free agent next year. Tyler Mahle dealt with shoulder problems and only made four starts in a Twins uniform after being acquired from the Reds at the deadline. Like Gray, he’s a free agent after 2023. Kenta Maeda should be back in some form but he missed all of 2022 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober had strong results in 2022 but both are still young, with neither having yet reached 200 career innings. Chris Paddack had Tommy John in May and could return in 2023, though likely not until the second half of the season. The club also had a batch of interesting pitching prospects, though they are naturally unproven as all prospects are, particularly pitchers.