Carlos Rodón is an incredibly talented pitcher. The left-hander is also hitting free agency at a very good age, 28, and will be 29 by the time spring training starts. He also had a fantastic 2021 season, and had he been fully healthy (he started 24 games and covered only 132.2 innings) he may have been in the running for the American League Cy Young award. In short, he would be positioned to get a boatload of money if there weren’t so many questions about his health.
Rodón had a 2.37 ERA, a 2.65 FIP, and 4.9 fWAR (!) in 132.2 frames. He had a career year, striking out 34.6% of the hitters he faced while walking only 6.7%.
He achieved the best performance of his career on the strength of improved health and fastball velocity. He averaged 92.8 mph with his heater in 2020 and 91.4 in 2019, but this year, he came out firing and finished with a career-high 95.4 mph.
Of course, if his fastball could now reach 99 mph, he threw it more often (58.6 percent of the time, to be precise) and it produced a strong .277 xwOBA and a 29.7 percent whiff rate. His slider and changeup also missed a ton of bats (40.6 and 36 percent, respectively), and Rodón looked like an elite starter virtually all year long.
However, he battled arm soreness down the stretch, at several points, and his fastball velocity suffered on occasion. It was clear, in September, that he wasn't healthy, and his only postseason appearance was a disaster.
Now, Rodón enters the offseason as a free agent with obvious questions about the health of his arm and his ability to handle a big workload. His career-high in innings is 165, which is not so bad, but it came back in 2016.
The Chicago White Sox didn’t extend him the $18.4 million qualifying offer, so the team that signs him won’t have to surrender a high draft pick. His market will be one of the most fascinating storylines to follow in the offseason.
Rodón is the 17th best free agent according to FanGraphs, and Ben Clemens expects him to net a three-year deal worth $45 million ($15 million per season). The folks at MLB Trade Rumors think, on the other hand, that the southpaw may look for a one-year, prove-it kind of deal with a high amount of money: $25 million.
In any case, Rodón seems like the type of investment that only a team with solid depth can, and should, make. He is a per-inning monster, at least he was in 2021 (he was more of a high-3.00s or low-4.00s kind of guy before really struggling in 2019 and 2020), but he should not be viewed as a 200-inning workhorse.
Another question mark would be the sustainability of his 2.37 ERA. Every other major run prevention metric loved him: he had a 2.63 xERA, a 2.65 FIP, a 3.17 xFIP, and a 2.96 SIERA. The problem is that he had never pitched like this before, so, naturally, some teams are wary.
The Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, and Boston Red Sox should be involved in the bidding, and we can’t rule out the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets, or even the New York Yankees. Additionally, the White Sox said they would be interested in a reunion. Every contender should have Rodón on the agenda.
Andrés Chávez loves the game of baseball and writes about it at Beyond the Box Score, Pinstripe Alley, and other sites. He is on Twitter as @andres_chavez13