Carlos Rodón is the top remaining starting pitcher in free agency and unsurprisingly has many suitors. The Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mets, Orioles and Dodgers have been connected to him at various points throughout the offseason. However, many of those teams have since signed other pitchers, potentially taking them out of the running. Also, the latest report suggests that Rodón and his representatives are looking for a deal of seven years or longer with a guarantee of $200MM or more. That’s well beyond the five years and $140MM that MLBTR predicted at the beginning of the offseason and likely prices out some of those clubs. So, who will actually pull it off? Let’s take a look at the options.
It is reportedly Rodón’s preference to make Yankee Stadium his home ballpark and the team is interested in him as well. That’s an excellent starting point but the fit gets more complicated from there. The Yanks would apparently prefer to limit their offers to the four- or five-year range, which is something that would have to be overcome in negotiations. It’s not surprising that the club has concerns about the long-term picture, since the future payrolls are already getting filled in. Aaron Judge is going to be making $40MM per season for the next nine years. Gerrit Cole still has six more years at $36MM per. Giancarlo Stanton has five more years between $25MM and $32MM, along with an option for 2028. Even if the club plans on turning that down at that time, it comes with a hefty $10MM buyout. DJ LeMahieu adds another $15MM per year for the next four seasons.
Even in the short term, there might be issues. There have been reports that the club would like to stay under the third tier of the competitive balance tax, as crossing that line would lead to much higher taxation rates and the club’s top 2023 draft pick moving back 10 spots. Roster Resource currently pegs their CBT figure at $266MM, not too far from the $273MM third tier. Adding a salary near $30MM for Rodón would push them past that line and also past the top tier of $293MM.
From a baseball standpoint, adding another starter makes sense. The club’s rotation currently consists of Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas. They could fill in the final slot with Domingo Germán or Clarke Schmidt and be in fine shape, but both Severino and Montas missed significant time with shoulder injuries in 2022. One more arm would bump German and Schmidt into depth roles and provide extra cover for an injury absence, but will they go for a top-of-the-market option like Rodón?
The Red Sox also have some long-term contracts on the books, though at lesser terms than the Yankees. Trevor Story and Masataka Yoshida are each under control for five more seasons, though their combined salaries are just barely over $40MM in most of those seasons. That makes them roughly equal to what the Yanks are paying Judge alone, never mind Cole or Stanton. In the short term, Roster Resource has their CBT figure at $192MM, meaning they could easily add a Rodón-sized salary and stay under the first luxury tax threshold of $233MM, if they so desire.
From an on-field perspective, it also makes sense given their rotation question marks. Chris Sale and James Paxton have hardly pitched in the past three years. Garrett Whitlock has done more bullpen work in his career so far, with only nine starts in the majors at this point. Brayan Bello just debuted in 2022 and made 11 starts of middling quality. Nick Pivetta stayed healthy in 2022 but he’s never posted an ERA better than 4.53. There’s plenty of room for upgrades in there.
However, the Sox just watched their franchise shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, ship off to San Diego. They apparently made a six-year, $160MM offer that was more than $100MM below the $280MM the Padres gave him. It was even below the $189MM MLBTR predicted at the start of the offseason, before spending went wild and it was clear it would take much more than that. After such a half-hearted attempt to secure a beloved franchise icon, are they really going to pivot and put in a harder charge for a new face like Rodón?
The entire Minnesota offseason has seemed to revolve around their hopes of bringing Carlos Correa back. The club has generally been pretty quiet, apart from acquiring Kyle Farmer as a Correa safety net and signing Christian Vázquez to be their catcher. They reportedly offered Correa ten years and $285MM, but he instead went to the Giants for $350MM over 13 years. Minnesota’s offer was actually a higher average annual value, but it was a significantly lower overall guarantee.
The question now is what their backup plan is. They were willing to five Correa $28.5MM per season, but would they have the same willingness for someone like Rodón? They certainly have the long-term payroll space to do it, as Byron Buxton and Vázquez are the only two players signed beyond the upcoming campaign. Vázquez will get a modest $10MM salary through 2025 while Buxton is only guaranteed $15MM per season through 2028 with various incentives available. In the short-term, the club’s payroll is only at $107MM for 2023, per Roster Resource. That’s well shy of last year’s Opening Day figure of $134MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
From a baseball perspective, the club has many rotation options and doesn’t strictly need an upgrade. However, Rodón would easily jump to the top of the chart and could allow the club to trade someone else. Currently, their rotation mix consists of Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winder and others. Chris Paddack underwent Tommy John surgery in May and could be back later in the season. Gray and Maeda have reportedly drawn trade interest, which could allow the club to make a splash on Rodón and then use their starters to upgrade elsewhere. The largest contract in franchise history is the $184MM extension they gave to Joe Mauer back in 2010. They were willing to smash that record for Correa but what about Rodón?
The Giants have been quite aggressive this winter, already handing out a mega deal for Correa as well as smaller but still significant deals for Mitch Haniger, Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling. Those latter two deals bolstered their rotation, with Manaea and Stripling now joining Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani and Jakob Junis as rotation options. That already seems like too many starters, though the club is apparently still in on Rodón.
From a long-term payroll point of view, they could certainly do it. Haniger and Correa are the only contracts on the books by 2025 and Correa the only one beyond that. In the short term, Roster Resource currently pegs their payroll at $190MM and their CBT figure at $206MM. They are getting near their franchise high payroll of $201MM, per Cot’s, though that was back in 2018. The CBT figure would tiptoe over the $233MM luxury tax line by adding a Rodón-sized deal, but they could pivot and trade one of their other starters to get back under. Wood is making $12.5MM in 2023 before reaching free agency, Cobb $9MM plus an option for 2024, DeSclafani $12MM in each of the next two seasons. Those three would all surely have some degree of trade value, given the high prices for free agent starters this winter. The club is also looking for outfield and catching help, but maybe a Rodón signing could eventually allow them to plug those holes via trade.
Though the Cardinals have been connected to Rodón, it was reported yesterday that they are unlikely to meet his asking price. That’s not exactly shocking as the largest contract in club history is the five-year, $130MM Paul Goldschmidt extension. The most they’ve ever given a free agent pitcher was $80MM for Mike Leake going into 2016. To suddenly jump up to $200MM would be quite a surprise. Their payroll for 2023 is also at $164MM, per Roster Resource, which is beyond last year’s figure and a match with their franchise high, per Cot’s. They may be willing to increase payroll this year, but going $30MM beyond their previous record would be a surprise.
The Cardinals also don’t strictly need a starter right now, as they have a number of rotation options. Their current crop of starters includes Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Jordan Montgomery and Dakota Hudson. There are some injury concerns in there but it’s still a solid group overall, with depth options like Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson available if needed. Adding Rodón would certainly be an upgrade, especially after 2023 when Wainwright will retire and Flaherty, Mikolas and Montgomery will all be free agents. However, that group is also decent enough for the club to compete in the National League Central this year. Similar to the Twins and Giants, they could sign Rodón and then flip one of their current pitchers, but the financial situation is probably an obstacle.
The Rangers were connected to Rodón as far back as October. At the time, it made perfect sense since the club’s rotation going into the winter consisted of Jon Gray and a bunch of crash test dummies. Since then, however, they have re-signed Martín Pérez, traded for Jake Odorizzi and signed free agents Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney. That group, along with Gray and Dane Dunning, puts the club’s rotation in solid shape, certainly much better than 2022. The club reportedly met with Rodón after the deGrom signing, though that was shortly before the Heaney deal was announced.
The club could certainly sign Rodón and bump Odorizzi into a sixth starter/swingman role until someone gets hurt. However, the club’s CBT figure is currently $204MM, per Roster Resource. Adding Rodón would get them near or above the luxury tax threshold of $233MM. In terms of pure payroll, the club’s current $181MM figure is already more than $15MM beyond their previous franchise record, per Cot’s. Would they be willing to add another $30MM on top of that, when they are still looking for outfield upgrades as well?
The Blue Jays were connected to Rodón in a limited way, though that was before they signed Chris Bassitt. That signing and the club’s other moves have shot the payroll up to record heights and put them into luxury tax territory for the first time. Roster Resource puts their CBT figure just barely over the $233MM line. The $209MM payroll is well beyond last year’s $171MM, their previous high, per Cot’s.
The club’s current rotation would consist of Bassitt, Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah and José Berríos, with Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch White options for the back end. They are reportedly still open for upgrades, though adding a monster deal for Rodón seems unlikely when they are already so far into uncharted territory in terms of the finances. It’s much more likely they search for a more modest upgrade, as they were connected to Johnny Cueto yesterday.
The Mets reportedly met with Rodón back in late November, but they have since signed Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and José Quintana. Those three, along with Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco, give the club a full rotation. The Mets are reportedly even thinking about trading Carrasco to open the final rotation slot for someone like David Peterson or Tylor Megill.
It would be foolish to completely rule the Mets out on anyone at this point, given that there doesn’t seem to be any limit to their spending. The payroll is already in record territory, with Roster Resource putting them down for $336MM and a CBT figure of $350MM. They are set to be second-time payors and are now paying a 90% tax on all spending since they are way beyond the top CBT line of $293MM. That means signing Rodón to a contract around $30MM per year would actually lead to the club paying about $60MM.
They have larger needs in the bullpen so spending huge money on Rodón doesn’t seem especially likely. However, they were just connected to Correa before he signed with the Giants, so maybe there’s still some big cash left on the pile.
The Orioles are the best fit for Rodón in terms of long-term payroll. They have literally no one guaranteed any money for 2024. Of course, many of their players will earn arbitration salaries for that season, but they are committed to nothing. For 2023, Roster Resource pegs their payroll at a meager $52MM, less than what the Mets are set to pay in taxes alone.
The rotation could surely use an extra arm, as it currently consists of Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth, Tyler Wells, Spenser Watkins, Kyle Bradish, Mike Baumann and DL Hall. Those guys all have limited track records and are still works in progress, apart from Gibson who was brought in as a veteran stabilizer. Prospect Grayson Rodriguez will likely join the group at some point, as will John Means, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April. But there’s plenty of room for upgrades.
The main argument against a Rodón signing is the track record of the O’s under general manager Mike Elias. The club has been aggressively rebuilding and avoiding long-term commitments. The club’s last free agent signing longer than one-year was for Alex Cobb back in 2018, prior to the hire of Elias. It’s much more likely that they target a lower tier of free agency, in line with their Gibson signing and their reported interest in Michael Wacha.
The Dodgers were connected to Rodón back in November, but they have since agreed to terms with Noah Syndergaard. He slots into a rotation that also features Julio Urías, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, with prospects like Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove around as depth. There are injury concerns in there, as Kershaw hasn’t been able to throw 130 innings in a season since 2019 due to various ailments. May just came back from Tommy John surgery late in 2022 and only made six starts on the year. Gonsolin jumped from swingman to starter in 2022 but dealt with a forearm strain down the stretch. Syndergaard was healthy in 2022 but it was his first full season back from Tommy John and his velocity didn’t fully return.
It’s not impossible to think that they would add another starter, but they generally prefer short-term deals. They signed Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney to one-year deals last offseason and have done the same now with Syndergaard. The last time they signed a pitcher to a deal longer than three years was Brandon McCarthy’s four-year deal going into 2015. There have also been reports that they would like to reset their luxury tax status this year so that they can be a “first-time” payor for 2024. Roster Resource has their CBT number at $201MM. That’s well shy of the $233MM luxury tax threshold, but Trevor Bauer is appealing his suspension at the moment. If he gets it overturned, that puts over $30MM back onto that number, taking up the space that they could theoretically use on Rodón. A decision on that is expected in the next month or so. Until they get clarity on that, they might avoid huge commitments.
Perhaps some team that hasn’t been connected to Rodón in rumors will swoop in and surprise us all. The Rays are never big spenders but were apparently willing to consider splurging on Freddie Freeman last year and Brandon Nimmo this year. The Mariners have been surprisingly quiet this winter and could be open to trading Marco Gonzales or Chris Flexen. The Cubs have signed Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger this winter but haven’t yet made the big splash many expected. They’ve been often connected to the shortstops and could still go after Dansby Swanson but the rotation has plenty of question marks. The Padres have already spent a bunch but apparently just missed on Bassitt. Do they have one more surprise up their sleeve?
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