DOTS: Impact of Eduardo Rodriguez signing with Diamondbacks

December 7, 2023

[DOTS is an FSS PLUS series that connects two or more points between a particular transaction and how it may impact future transactions, rosters & depth charts, and current markets. The result is the following analysis.]

The Arizona Diamondbacks want to show the rest of Major League Baseball that reaching the World Series in 2023 wasn’t a fluke and are making an impact move in early December to prove it, signing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year, $80m contract with a vesting option and bonuses that can bring the contract to five-years $100 million deal to bolster their starting rotation. Adding to what is already a solid one-two punch in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, Rodriguez along with the rising Brandon Pfaadt figures to help Arizona reach for new heights and be one of the best starting groups in the National League.

Rodriguez finished 2023 in Detroit with a 3.30 ERA and a 15.3 K-BB% in 152.2 innings and 26 starts. He didn’t pitch in the month of June due to a finger issue, but finished the year pitching all scheduled starts aside from leaving a game early in mid-September following a back spasm.

Potential Diamondbacks rotation on opening day:

Player Throws2023 FIP2023 K%
Zac GallenR3.2626.0%
Merrill KellyR3.8525.9%
Eduardo RodriguezL3.6623.0%
Brandon Pfaadt R5.1822.3%
Ryne NelsonR5.0715.5%

What’s next for Arizona?

While the bullpen finished No. 18 in ERA in the majors in 2023, Arizona will likely shift their primary focus to upgrading the offense. Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit free agency following the World Series loss, but even with factoring him into the picture the Diamondbacks finished No. 18 in team wRC+. Corbin Carroll is a great platform to build from and Christian Walker is a solid middle-of-the-lineup bat but impact production is needed just to match the offensive value Arizona enjoyed last year — let alone build on it.

Top organizational prospect Jordan Lawlar figures to factor into the lineup in 2024 but is lauded more for his glove than his bat. It remains to be seen how much principal owner Ken Kendrick is willing to spend over the offseason following a World Series trip. Signing Rodriguez is certainly a good start and a good sign for D-backs fans. The free agent market — and the trade market — are short on bats this year, and top talents likely come at a premium price, especially for small-market teams that can’t afford to give up major league player assets.

Names like Kevin Kiermaier or Michael A. Taylor could peak the interest of Arizona budget wise and in terms of positional fit, but don’t necessarily provide the thump the Snakes are looking for.

What does this mean for the remaining starting pitching market?

Reigning Cy Young award winner Blake Snell and international free agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto are not disappointed by the dollar value on this deal. While the 30-year-old Rodriguez posted a valuable 3.66 FIP, 3.0 fWAR season in 2023, Snell was both better (3.44 FIP, 4.1 fWAR) and more durable (180 innings pitched). Yamamoto was already rumored to be receiving a deal in the $200-300 million range, and Rodriguez’s contract didn’t hurt that one bit.

Where this might make things more interesting is in the next tear of starting pitchers. Jordan Montgomery and Marcus Stroman could see their values boosted into the $20 million AAV range, if they weren’t there already. The 31-year-old Montgomery is coming off a stellar postseason with near identical results to Rodriguez, posting a 3.56 FIP in 188.2 innings. Stroman is missing the postseason magic, but also posted a FIP at 3.58 in 136.2 innings albeit will be 33-years old entering the 2024 season and posted a career high 9% walk rate.

The Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers may wait out the free agent market to trade top arms Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes in order to fetch the top bids from teams that whiffed on the Yoshinobu and Snell sweepstakes, but their impact on how soon mid-tier free agent arms get plucked off the board shouldn’t be overlooked. If teams looking for high impact turn to Cease and Burnes before the mid-tier rotation market, names such as Seth Lugo, Lucas Giolito or Mike Clevinger may have to wait their turn.

Sean Manaea seems to already be a popular name in the “affordable” market range and could be one of the next pitchers to come off the board, and the Mariners could be looking to exchange one of their young arms in Bryce Miller, Logan Gilbert or Bryan Woo for a controllable bat.

Casey Bellon

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