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Meet The New Guy: Joely Rodriguez

He’s a free agent reliever signed for just over $1 million, so don’t expect too much. But there are reasons to believe he can be better next year.

Who Is This Guy And Where Did He Come From?

He’s Joely Rodriguez, which you know if you’d bothered to read the headline. He’s spent parts of five seasons in the Majors and bounced around a lot, from the Phillies, to the Rangers, to the Yankees, and finally to the Mets last season — and that was all following a grinding, eight-year climb through the Pirates minor league system. The Red Sox signed him as a free agent, offering him a tiny little $1.5 million deal for one year, with a club option for a second. That tiny little deal could become not so tiny if he stays with the big league club all year, though; in that case, he’ll make $3.5 million next year.

What Position Does He Play?

He’s a left-handed relief pitcher, joining Josh Taylor as the only ones currently slated for the 2023 bullpen.

What’s He Doing In His Picture Up There?

Pointing to the Widow Van Delft’s gardener and saying “J’accuse! It was you who poisoned the widow’s tea cakes! Your resentment for her grew like the weeds you work so hard to kill. And you, so used to stamping out life in her garden, took it upon yourself to do the same in her parlor! You are the widow’s murderer!”

Is He Any Good?

Well, he’s definitely better than me, but I’m not the most useful measuring stick, am I? In terms of his skill-level relative to other left-handed relief pitchers in the Major Leagues, though, the answer, unfortunately, is no. By ERA+, he’s been seven percent worse than league-average for his career. He’s always displayed shaky control, but last year his control went from shaky to putrid, as his 4.65 walks-per-nine were the 15th worst in all of baseball. To be fair, though, those were fewer walks than both Hirokazu Sawamura and Jake Diekman gave up so . . . hooray for incremental improvements?

As we’ve already established, though, he’s a left-handed relief pitcher and these guys are, by definition, volatile. To be a relief pitcher is to dance on the edge of a knife, always one tweak away from success on one side of the blade, one stumble away from failure on the other. So in that respect, there certainly are signs that Joely Rodriguez could be good.

For one thing, he does a great job limiting hard contact and, by extension, home runs. He surrendered just 0.54 homers per nine innings last year, which was good for 38th in all of baseball. Any late-inning guy who can keep the ball in the ballpark is valuable. If he can limit the walks as well, then he has the potential to be a dependable, high-leverage reliever. In fact, that’s exactly what he managed to do over 21 games for the Yankees in 2021, after being traded to the Bronx from Texas. During that stretch, he lowered his walks-per-nine to 2.8 — the lowest mark of his career — and, as a result, gave up just 6 earned runs over 19 innings.

What’s His Role On The Team Next Year?

They’re going to throw him and a bunch of other relievers against the wall and see who sticks. In light of the fact that he’s a lefty with some promising batted-ball data, expect him to hang up there for a little while.

Show Me A Cool Highlight

Do you want to see an actual highlight? Or do you just want to watch him chill in the Coors Field batter’s eye with a Red Bull and some sunflower seeds? Yeah, that’s what I thought:

Joely’s A Fun Name, Isn’t It?

Can’t argue with that.