Welcome to Smash Or Pass, a new offseason series in which we’ll examine various free agents and trade targets to determine whether they make sense for the Red Sox. Today, we’re taking a look at starting pitcher — and 2018 World Series Champion — Eduardo Rodriguez.
Who is he and where does he come from?
Don’t play coy. You know who he is.
You know that part in a movie where the main character realizes another character is what they’ve needed all along and catches them at the airport before they depart to a long term commitment? Well, that’s not exactly what may happen with Eduardo Rodriguez, but seeing as Detroit just signed Kenta Maeda to a two-year, 24 million deal and the Tigers aren’t exactly abundant spenders, let’s imagine for a second.
To answer your question, he’s E-Rod. Originally picked up by the Orioles by way of Venezeula, the lefty spent four years in that minor league system before being dealt to the Red Sox organization in 2014, late in the Ben Cherington days. He made his Major League debut for Boston in 2015 and pitched 121 1⁄3 innings to an ERA of 3.85. Over the next six seasons (he sat out the entirety of 2020 due to COVID-induced myocarditis) he compiled a 63-39 record (though his ERA climbed to 4.16) and he was an integral part of the 2018 rotation that won a World Series. Following a spirited but ultimately circumstantial 2021 postseason campaign, he departed for Detroit on a 5-year, $77 million deal. After taking some time off in 2022 due to a marital issue and vetoing a trade to the Dodgers on 2023’s trade deadline day and subsequently opting out of the rest of his deal, some interest has been piqued at where E-Rod may spend 2024 and beyond.
Is he any good?
It’s a complicated answer, but I would ultimately say: yes, very much so. And if he’s not, he’s at least better than many pitchers Chaim Bloom fetched during his time as Chief Baseball Officer. His hard hit percentage has hovered around the upper fourth for most of his career (though he’s currently sitting at the 54th percentile) as has his exit velocity on batted balls (both metrics via Baseball Savant.) This is due to his fastball reaching just 93 miles per hour, which isn’t extraordinary, but his ground ball percentage throughout his career is an impressive 41.2%. When guys hit him, it’s generally not for very far. Also, he’s four years removed from a season in which he notched 213 strikeouts. 2019 E-Rod was truly on another level.
Unfortunately, he has a much tougher time going deep into games. His ERA the second time through the lineup compared to the third time jumps from 3.81 to 5.11. And that’s as far as it gets — in his eight-year career, he has only reached the fourth time through the order seven times. However, I will say: that is starting to change for the better. He reached the 6-inning mark 14 times in 2023, which is seemingly about as much as the whole Red Sox team did last season.
He’s also good for giving up about a home run an appearance, and, anecdotally, it’s always at the most frustrating time. And, I still haven’t gotten over him pointing at his watch after striking Carlos Correa out. I know, it was awesome, but I’m a superstitious guy, okay?
So, I will say, reluctantly, on a leash and with some good backup in the bullpen, Eddie could be, at the very least, dependable.
TL;DR, just give me his 2023 stats.
152 2/3 IP, 3.30 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 143 K, 48 BB, 13-9 record, 1,15 WHIP
Why would he be a good fit on the 2024 Red Sox?
I’ll make it simple because it’s in every article on this site and others: pitching is good. Red Sox pitching is bad. Eduardo Rodriguez is good. In all the “Craig Breslow is going to revamp this pitching staff” stuff, there hasn’t been any talk of familiarity and how that could serve the team. A guy with a WHIP anywhere near 1 would be welcome on this team, as would a guy who historically can whiff a batter.
Why would he NOT be a good fit on the 2024 Red Sox?
Often during the season, the bullpen was winded. And that’s putting it lightly. Alex Cora was referencing it almost every day in his press conferences. Whether you genuinely believe this, think it was an excuse for more bad bullpen management, blame the breadth of injuries, or some combination of those, the fact is that Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford and Nick Pivetta were the only pitchers on this Boston team that reached 120 innings in 2023, and the latter may be seeing more reps as a bullpen guy in 2024 and beyond. Eduardo Rodriguez has reached the hallowed 160 inning mark (32 starts x 5 innings) just once, in that incredible 2019 effort. Of course, that was Eddie pre-heart condition, and seeing as he is now on the other side of 30 and will be 31 in April, 2019 it may have been his best season, and that was half a decade ago.
Show me a cool highlight.
You’re going to make me show the moment that shifted the momentum in 2021, aren’t you? I won’t do that, but how about this 17-pitch duel he won against Austin Meadows, showing him everything but still blowing him away on a slider. Usually we’re against long at-bats like this, especially since it lasted 8 minutes, but Eddie was very intelligent on pitch sequence here. It’d be worthy of a Jacob Roy anatomy of an inning if it wasn’t more than two years ago.
Want strikeouts? Here’s his Major League debut in 2015, where he pitched 7 2⁄3 scoreless frames as a 22-year-old. (An outlier to my previous statement about his stamina)
Here’s something a bit more recent:
What would he cost?
He turned down 3 years, 49 million dollars, so at least that. And, no, I don’t think he’d be willing to take a hometown discount, whatever that would mean. Spotrac has him at 4 years, 82 million dollars. Either way, it’s significantly more than the $8.3 million a year we were paying him for his stint here.
Smash or Pass?
Keeping that steep price tag in mind for a guy who’s had his share of stamina issues considering this team’s lack of stamina, I’m inclined to say pass. But, if Craig Breslow wants to make a splash, there would be nothing wrong with getting a guy of E-Rod’s caliber as a sure mainstay in this rotation. It would also give flexibility for guys like Nick Pivetta or Tanner Houck to stay where they may be most effective: in the bullpen. So I’d smash, but with one caveat: I’d need to smash something else, too. Let’s skip the gushing scene in the airport after paying the taxi driver every dollar in our bank accounts but still admit that it’d be great to have Eddie back in Boston.