The Tigers announced they’ve claimed right-hander Nivaldo Rodríguez off waivers from the Astros and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. Houston designated Rodríguez for assignment over the weekend. Detroit had a pair of vacancies on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move was necessary.
Rodríguez has made nine appearances totaling sixteen innings of relief at the big league level over the past two seasons. He’s allowed nine runs over that span, giving up nineteen hits (including five homers) and issuing ten walks while striking out eleven. Rodríguez has spent more time with Triple-A Sugar Land this year, tossing 27 1/3 innings of 5.93 ERA ball with worse than average strikeout and walk rates (19.5% and 12.5%, respectively).
Nevertheless, it’s a sensible enough decision for the Tigers to take a no-risk flier on the 24-year-old. Rodríguez has worked exclusively in relief to this point in the big leagues, but he’s generally served as a starting pitcher in the minors. He’s shown a five-pitch mix (four-seam, sinker, slider, changeup, curveball) in his limited MLB time, so it’s not outlandish to think he could stick as high minors rotation depth.
Entering the season, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs called Rodríguez a likely fifth starter or long relief type, slotting him 17th among prospects in the Astros system. Rodríguez still has one minor league option year remaining beyond this season, so he can move freely between Detroit and Toledo through the end of 2022 if he sticks on the 40-man roster.