The Giants’ agreement with lefty Sean Manaea appeared to give them a full rotation, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that even after guaranteeing Manaea $25MM over the next two years (with an opt-out after year one), San Francisco remains engaged with Rodon and agent Scott Boras about a potential reunion.
Manaea, 31 in February, can join Logan Webb, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb and Anthony DeSclafani in comprising a prototypical five-man rotation, but there ought to be room for Rodon on the roster even with that quintet in place. That’s true both because Rodon is a clear upgrade over the majority (arguably all five) of those in-house arms, and also because the internal group comes with a fair bit of injury risk and health uncertainty.
DeSclafani, for instance, was limited to just 19 innings this past season, thanks to a tendon injury in his ankle that eventually required surgical repair. Each of Wood, Cobb and Webb made at least 26 starts, but Cobb and Wood also have lengthy injury histories. Cobb pitched just 158 total innings from 2019-21, owing to groin, back and wrist strains. Wood has made 26 starts in consecutive seasons now, but he pitched just 12 2/3 innings in 2020 and just 35 2/3 innings in 2019 due to back and shoulder injuries. Even Webb, who worked a team-high 192 1/3 innings in 2022, missed a few weeks in 2021 while battling a minor shoulder strain.
No team can be realistically expected to navigate an entire 162-game season with only five starters. While the Giants have some depth with swingman Jakob Junis and minor leaguers Sean Hjelle, Thomas Szapucki, Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn all on the 40-man roster, they also have ample payroll space to make a Rodon-sized splash and figure out the allotment of innings at a later date. Roster Resource projects a $151MM payroll for the upcoming season and a luxury-tax ledger that’s a bit higher ($168.3MM) but nowhere near the first tier of penalization, which begins at $233MM in 2023.
Rodon was reported earlier in the offseason to be seeking a six-year deal worth more $30MM-plus on an annual basis, and Slusser more recently reported that he and Boras have been seeking at least seven years. What’s not clear is whether that shift in length of desired contract comes with a shift in the per-year asking price. We’ve seen teams this offseason increasingly show a willingness to stretch contracts to greater lengths as a means of tamping down AAV. Clubs had been moving away from longer-term, lower-AAV deals for some time — Bryce Harper being a notable exception — instead showing a preference for shorter-term deals at high annual values. That hasn’t been the case this winter, with Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Nimmo and Jacob deGrom all signing lengthier deals than expected but at lesser annual rates of pay than their highest-paid peers at their respective positions.
Put more simply, if Rodon and Boras set out seeking $180-200MM in total guarantees this winter but were having difficulty finding that, it’s at least possible that the shift toward a deal of seven-plus years in length might be more about reaching that $180MM-plus benchmark than about now seeking seven years at $30MM-plus per season. A seven-year deal worth $185MM, as a purely speculative example, wouldn’t line up with the previously reported AAV target for Rodon but would ensure his place among the ten highest-compensated free agent pitchers in MLB history.
Of course, anything in that vicinity would still shatter most industry expectations heading into the offseason. Two months ago, the most common question regarding Rodon was if he’d done enough to secure a sixth guaranteed year or would need to “settle” for a five-year contract. While reports of Rodon pursuing six, seven or even more years at or near the $30MM AAV threshold don’t serve as a guarantee that he’ll eventually reach those heights, they still represent a departure from where his market was expected to land.
In many ways, that’s a microcosm of the free-agent market at large since the offseason ended. Teams have been willing to spend far more freely than in recent winters, as last March’s collective bargaining agreement assured five years of labor peace and also gave front offices and owners clarity on where the luxury-tax thresholds will sit for the foreseeable future.
Beyond Rodon, the Giants are also known to be keenly interested in shortstop Carlos Correa — their top target after missing on free-agent outfielder Aaron Judge. Whether they’re willing to pony up and make commitments to both Rodon and Correa isn’t clear, though it’d certainly register as a surprise, as that pairing could wind up costing something in the range of $450-500MM combined.