On Friday, a long-rumored New York Yankees free agent target was swiped off the board when the San Francisco Giants reeled in left-handed starting pitcher Carlos Rodón on a two-year, $44 million contract.
The former White Sox fireballer was the last impact/potential top-of-rotation arm left on the market, so if the Yankees seek to add that kind of game-changer to their roster, they’ll now have to do so via trade.
The decision to pass on Rodón has certainly elicited mixed feelings from the fanbase. For those angry about watching him go elsewhere, the argument holds up. The Yankees were ready to offer Justin Verlander $25 million for the 2022 season despite the fact he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and had thrown just six innings since the start of 2020.
Why wouldn’t they be willing to go to similar lengths for Rodón, who didn’t require a long-term commitment, reportedly had “good medicals,” and just put forth the best campaign of his career (even though his season was partially derailed by a few mystery injuries and limited him to 132.2 innings)?
As for those who are fine with the decision to pass on him, it’s also hard to argue against that this probably just wouldn’t have worked out for the Yanks. These risky deals for them hardly pay off and we could’ve easily envisioned an injury-plagued year for Rodón and then him opting into the second year of the contract to cost the Yanks $22 million in 2023 despite not being worth that price tag.
But where should most fans land in regard to this discussion? In one of the extreme ends of the spectrum, or somewhere in the middle?
Yankees missed out on Carlos Rodón after he signed with the Giants
Perhaps it’s best to be a little critical here. With the Yankees’ reported unwillingness to trade some of their more valuable prospects (it was said they were unwilling to move Oswald Peraza for Matt Olson back in November), fans can’t trust the rotation to be improved with an impact acquisition via that route (unless they change course, obviously).
Additionally, with Rodón’s medicals reportedly checking out, why weren’t the Yankees willing to pay less for him (compared to what they offered Verlander) after a career season? Verlander’s 2022 campaign is guaranteed to be limited in more ways than one, whereas Rodón seemingly has no restrictions and is hoping to parlay this short-term deal into a bigger payday next offseason should he opt out after 2022.
Then you have the entire Yankees rotation. The depth seems good, doesn’t it? But there are far more questions than answers. At this very moment, it’s safe to pencil in Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery for 160+ innings of very good starting pitching. Everyone else? Kind of a mystery.
For those of you optimistic about a “Sevy Season” comeback … just remember he’s thrown 18 regular season innings over the last three years and came back as a reliever in 2021. James Taillon is coming off ankle surgery and is oft-injured. Can we consider Domingo Germán a reliable starter at this point? He seems like a spot starter/depth option at best. Nestor Cortes has never pitched more than 93 innings in a single season. Michael King has proven to be better suited for a multi-inning relief role, as 2020 and 2021 showed us. And Luis Gil has a long way to go before being considered a reliable major league option, because six starts isn’t enough of a sample size.
That’s why adding Rodón and his high-octane 125-150 innings would’ve been well worth the $21.5 million. His ceiling is an ace. His floor is a back-end rotation piece. He would’ve been filling a void with incredible upside and a less risky worst-case scenario. And it would’ve taken pressure off the aforementioned names who still have plenty to prove before securing roles that put them in higher regard than they already are.
And if you were going to pay another $4.5 million for Verlander, who’s entering his age-39 season after reconstructive elbow surgery, it’s just baffling that the one other comparable option (with fewer mileage and injury concerns at this very moment) remaining was puzzling because now we really don’t know what kind of risk the Yankees are willing to take here.