1. Carlos Rodon: 3 Years, $54 Million (w/ Fourth Year Team Option)
Yes, we predict the Yankees will be the ones to take the risk on the highest-reward pitcher still on the market: a fire-breathing left-hander in Carlos Rodon who rehabilitated his career and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting last season in Chicago, but still sputtered down the stretch as his arm began to give out.
At his peak, clearly on display last year, Rodon is a borderline ace; he posted 5.0 WAR in just 132.2 innings last season. How often does he reach that peak moving forward, though? Did Rodon give all he has left to give in 2021?
This addition is as risky as any, and though the Yankees love to minimize AAV by stretching out salary over more and more years, that’s tough to do with Rodon, who really hasn’t provided us with evidence he can be counted on to pitch to any contract’s upper limits.
Still, it’ll take some promise of security to get him on board, and he’ll probably be expecting an AAV close to $20 million. After all, this might well be the final time he hits free agency with any momentum (though, again, it was all blunted slightly by the way his season ended). Perhaps the Yankees can secure his services by at least floating a fourth-year team option, which they’ll be more than willing to pick up if Rodon stays healthy for at least 2.5 of the three guaranteed seasons. That’s how we got our numbers down below $20 million to $17 million AAV.
If we know one thing about Rodon, it’s that he’ll be motivated in 2022 to prove his health resurgence wasn’t a fluke. If we know one thing about the Yankees’ budget, it’s that they’re perfectly equipped to take risks like this — after all, they took an even bigger (though short-term) one with Corey Kluber last season, and were ready to offer Justin Verlander similar security this offseason coming off Tommy John and hitting the age of 39.
If they don’t, Boston will.