The Red Sox announced earlier this evening that the club has declined its club option on the services of left-hander Joely Rodriguez for the 2024 season. In lieu of exercising the $4.25MM option, the team will instead pay Rodriguez a $500K buyout to return to the open market.
The decision is hardly a surprising one, even though Rodriguez looked like an interesting pickup for Boston when he was signed to a $2MM guarantee last offseason. At the time of the signing, Rodriguez had spent the prior three seasons with the Rangers, Yankees, and Mets, pitching to a combined 4.28 ERA in 119 games with a sterling 3.14 FIP and a solid 25.5% strikeout rate. While those numbers indicated that the 31-year-old Rodriguez could be at least a solid middle reliever from the left side with perhaps even potential for a higher leverage role, that did not come to pass in 2023.
Instead of reaching the potential he has flashed in the past, Rodriguez suffered through an injury-marred season with the Red Sox this year. After starting the year on the injured list due to an oblique issue, Rodriguez then missed time with a shoulder strain and a recurring hip problem that eventually ended his season. All told, Rodriguez pitched just 11 innings for the Red Sox this year during which he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and six walks while striking out 14.
As Rodriguez returns to the open market, it’s certainly feasible that the lefty could be a quality bullpen arm for a club in 2024 if he manages to get healthy. That being said, between his lost 2023 campaign and past results that trended closer to average than the above-average production his underlying metrics might indicate, it seems likely that Rodriguez will be forced to settle for a minor league deal ahead of his age-32 campaign.
Looking toward the Red Sox, the bullpen in Boston is fairly well set up with Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin both returning for the late innings, not to mention the likes of Garrett Whitlock and Josh Winckowski. That said, with both Rodriguez and Richard Bleier headed to the open market this winter, it’s certainly reasonable to wonder if the club could look for another left-handed relief option to pair with Brennan Bernardino in the bullpen. The free agent market has plenty of options available in the regard, including veteran set-up arms like Matt Moore and Will Smith.