Yankees unexpectedly sign productive reliever to minor-league deal


The New York Yankees‘ quest to preserve the pitching staff for the entirety of the 2022 season continues, and general manager Brian Cashman just made a move that might pay off come October.

On Wednesday, the Bombers signed former Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves reliever Richard Rodriguez to a minor-league contract. Didn’t know he was still available, did ya?!

The 32-year-old was among the coveted trade deadline targets last season and was dealt from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, and helped the Braves finish strong down the stretch, which positioned them to win the World Series (he wasn’t on the playoff roster, though).

In the offseason, the Braves opted to non-tender the right-hander despite the fact he was likely going to make a shade over $3 million.

In 228 career games from 2017-2021, Rodriguez owns a 3.28 ERA, 4.05 FIP and 1.13 WHIP with 230 strikeouts in 228 innings. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, but they certainly belong in the middle of somebody’s bullpen!

Atlanta likely opted to cut bait because of Rodriguez’s peripheral statistics taking a nosedive, but what’s the harm in keeping a cheap relief option in the bullpen to eat innings?

Yankees sign reliever Richard Rodriguez to minor-league contract

Nonetheless, that’s exactly what the Yankees are doing, and they managed to get him for next to nothing since he’s been a free agent up until a few hours ago.

Though Rodriguez only sports two pitches (a four-seam fastball and a slider), he hardly ever walks anybody and ranked in the 89th percentile for fastball spin last season. Seems like a profile pitching coach Matt Blake can work with in a flash. And he’s a former Pirate? Forget about it.

Since 2018, Rodriguez’s surface-level numbers have largely remained consistent, but his advanced metrics have fluctuated, with 2021 serving as rock bottom and 2018 representing his ceiling. In 2021, despite a 2.94 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, Rodriguez was among the worst in MLB when it came to average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, expected slugging percentage, whiff percentage and strikeout percentage (with other key stats in the “blue,” which indicates below-average production).

However, in 2018, he was among the best in all of those categories (and more!) with the exception of a mediocre average exit velocity figure. Feels like this should be somewhere in the middle, which is a positive addition to almost any team out there.

If the Yankees can get the 2018 version, where all the relative statistics aligned, then the bridge to Clay Holmes just got bigger and better.