The Boston Red Sox made a flurry of roster moves on the final day before the indefinite lockout. The big splash came in the final hour, with Renfroe being shipped out for a familiar face in Jackie Bradley Jr. and a couple of promising prospects. However, there were multiple pitching additions as well, with Rich Hill and James Paxton joining Michael Wacha as pitching depth for the 2022 season.
Hill shows promise, but Wacha is merely a depth option and Paxton will not be ready until midseason. The Red Sox have yet to make a sizeable addition that fills the void Eduardo Rodriguez left behind when he signed his deal with the Detroit Tigers. More importantly, the starting pitching market was quickly depleted with a flurry of signings all around the league at the position, leaving fewer options with which Chaim Bloom can work.
Carlos Rodón is the top pitcher remaining on the free agent market by both 2021 fWAR and projected 2022 fWAR, and he fits the mold of a Bloom acquisition. I say this because Rodón will likely receive somewhat of a short-term prove-it deal, similar to what Paxton just received (albeit, on a larger scale). The 28-year-old southpaw did not even receive a qualifying offer despite coming off of an extremely effective season, and not having to give up draft-pick compensation makes the lefty even more enticing. His upside is unmatched at this point in free agency, and his contract should be manageable. MLB Trade Rumors projects Rodón will receive a one-year, $25 million contract. I would imagine that the lefty will also have some sort of option included for 2022, but I could see this projection being in the ballpark.
Rodón was fifth in Cy Young voting in 2021, going 13-5 with 2.37 ERA, 185 strikeouts, and 36 walks in 132 2⁄3 innings. His strikeout rate of 34.6 percent put him in the top four percent of the league, and that ability to strike out opponents is particularly huge when considering how poor the Red Sox defense was at converting ground balls into outs last season. Barring some notable offseason additions, the Red Sox should be targeting pitchers with high strikeout rates to put less pressure on what was one of the league’s worst defenses in 2021.
One of the main concerns surrounding Rodón’s free agency was his injury history, including one late in the season. I already wrote about this injury concern and this is what I had to say:
So what does Carlos Rodón bring to the table? His primary pitch is a four-seam fastball with an average velocity of 95.4 mph in 2021. Opponents hit .199 against his fastball with a 29.7 percent whiff rate. Rodón likes to get his fastball up in the zone, and he pairs his high heat with one of the nastiest sliders in baseball. His slider has a .107 batting average against and a staggering whiff rate of 40.6 percent. The southpaw threw his slider 604 times and only allowed 17 hits (14 singles and three doubles). The only pitch that frequently got the 28-year-old in trouble last season was the changeup. His changeup was hit at a .367 clip with a .612 slugging percentage. The pitch does have promise, generating a 36.3 percent whiff rate in a down year for his changeup.
Carlos Rodón is the last name that would truly get me excited in the free agent starting pitching market. Of course, trades are still in play but it’s never clear what exactly is available on the trade market, and those targets would cost prospects. Rodón would only cost money, and he has higher upside than anyone else they’d be able to find in any market.