The Yankees are expected to put forth a contract offer to Carlos Rodón in the coming days, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Heyman has suggested on a few occasions the Yankees have serious interest in the top free agent starter remaining, and putting a formal proposal on the table would mark a notable step in that pursuit.
Terms of the proposal aren’t clear, though Heyman reiterates that New York is reluctant to offer the seven-plus guaranteed seasons the southpaw and his representatives at the Boras Corporation reportedly seek. A seventh year is a lofty goal for Rodón’s camp, assuming they’re not banking in a notable dip on an annual basis to compensate for the longer term. That doesn’t appear to be the case, as Heyman writes they’re looking for a deal that tops $200MM in guarantees.
That’s rare territory, as only six pitchers have surpassed the $200MM mark. Gerrit Cole stands head and shoulders above the pack at $324MM over nine years, with the rest of the group checking in between $206.5MM and $245MM. Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke are the only other hurlers to reach that level. A handful of additional free agent pitchers (Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, CC Sabathia and Barry Zito) have reached seven-plus years on deals under $200MM, but that’s itself a rare occurrence for a pitcher.
At the start of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a five-year, $140MM guarantee for Rodón. The free agent rotation market has generally been more robust than anticipated, and at least a six-year deal now seems very attainable for the two-time All-Star. Landing a seventh season at an annual salary below that projected $28MM — thereby decreasing the deal’s average annual value and lowering the luxury tax hit for a signing team — could be on the table. That’s been a common strategy this offseason, with Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Nimmo all taking slight discounts on a per-year basis for very long deals with larger guarantees than forecasted. The best of both worlds for Rodón, of course, would be a seven-year term that doesn’t relinquish anything on an annual basis. It remains to be seen if a team will go to those lengths, with a seven-year pact requiring at least $28.57MM in annual salary to get to $200MM total.
Rodón is the only free agent ace still available. Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander were the two free agent hurlers who could rival or best Rodón from a performance perspective. Their ages limited them to shorter deals (five and two years, respectively) than the one Rodón is seeking. At age 30, the former third overall draftee has arguably the best combination of performance track record and youth among this year’s class of hurlers. However, he’s not without some question marks as a player with a Tommy John surgery and a shoulder procedure on his injury history.
The North Carolina State product stayed healthy in 2022, tossing a career-high 178 innings of 2.88 ERA ball for the Giants. He was brilliant for a second straight season, striking out a third of opponents with solid control. On a rate basis, he’s one of the sport’s top pitchers, but he doesn’t have the workload track record of any pitcher who’d previously gotten to $200MM.
Cole, Strasburg, Price, Kershaw, Scherzer and Grienke had all had multiple seasons with 200+ innings pitched prior to inking their megadeals; Rodón has never gotten to that level. Workload for starting pitchers continues to dwindle, though, and it stands to reason teams will increasingly value per-inning performance while weighing workload volume less as expectations for pitcher roles change.
New York and the incumbent Giants have been tied to Rodón on a few occasions, and Heyman added the Cardinals as a team with interest over the weekend. The Rangers, Mets and Blue Jays were tied to him earlier in the offseason, but Texas later added Andrew Heaney to join deGrom while Toronto agreed to terms with Chris Bassitt this evening. The Mets landed each of Verlander, José Quintana and Kodai Senga. The Orioles, Red Sox and Twins have also been very loosely linked to Rodón in prior reports, although the extent of the interest of all three clubs isn’t clear.