Right-hander Yariel Rodriguez held a private workout today, per reporter Francys Romero. Romero adds that the Red Sox and Padres were the two teams with representatives in attendance to watch the righty, who threw two innings during the workout.
Rodriguez, 27 in March, was declared a free agent by MLB earlier this month after he was granted his release by the NPB’s Chunichi Dragons back in October. Rodriguez spent three seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Dragons, racking up a 3.03 ERA with a 25.4% strikeout rate in 175 1/3 innings during that time. His 2022 campaign with the Dragons was particularly impressive as he dominated to the tune of a microscopic 1.15 ERA in 54 2/3 frames, with a 27.5% strikeout rate against an 8.3% walk rate.
After his dominant work in Japan, Rodriguez suited up as a starting pitcher for his home country of Cuba during the World Baseball Classic, during which he struck out ten while allowing two runs on five hits and six walks in 7 1/3 innings of work between his two appearances. Following his appearances in the WBC back in March, Rodriguez sat out the remainder of the 2023 campaign as the Dragons placed him on the restricted list prior to granting the righty his release last month.
Public evaluations of Rodriguez are few and far between thanks to the unusual nature of his free agency, but given his unusual youth for a free agent and dominant numbers overseas, it’s easy to see why teams in need of pitching help would be interested in his services, particularly if they believe he can start in the majors. MLBTR ranked Rodriguez #28 on our annual Top 50 MLB Free Agents list earlier this month, projecting him for a four-year, $32MM contract. Earlier this offseason, Romero relayed a list of ten teams that had shown interest in Rodriguez that included neither Boston nor San Diego, while Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times indicated that the Rays were among fifteen teams that were represented at a workout held by Rodriguez last month.
It’s unclear what level of interest the clubs connected to Rodriguez thusfar this offseason have in the right-hander, though it’s easy to see how the Red Sox and Padres match up as potential fits. Boston has made it clear that additional starting pitching help is a priority for the club this offseason, including the possibility of pairing a top-of-the-market arm with a second, more affordable piece. Rodriguez could make plenty of sense as a secondary acquisition for Boston. Young arms like Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, and Kutter Crawford have all shown an ability to pitch both in the rotation and out of the bullpen, helping to ease the risk involved in signing an arm like Rodriguez, who hasn’t pitched regularly out of the rotation in professional games since 2019.
The Padres, meanwhile, are in need of several starting pitchers after losing Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez to free agency earlier this month. With San Diego reportedly intending to cut payroll this offseason, Rodriguez could make sense as a potentially impactful rotation addition with a lower acquisition cost than top-of-the-market arms like Snell. Rodriguez’s recent history as a bullpen arm seems unlikely to scare San Diego away from a deal with the righty, as Lugo had started just twelve games across his last five seasons of work before making 26 starts with the Padres this year. Martinez also has a history of working both out of the bullpen and in the rotation. His 2023 contract contained incentives accounting for both possibilities, further demonstrating the club’s willingness to get creative when it comes to arms with experience both starting and in relief.