The Diamondbacks and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez are in agreement on a four-year deal with an average annual value in the $20MM range, per Jeff Passan of ESPN. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported earlier this evening that Arizona was a finalist for Rodriguez’s services. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the deal guarantees Rodriguez four years and $80MM, with incentives and a vesting option that could take the total to a maximum of five years and $99MM.
For the reigning NL champions, Rodriguez provides a third front-of-the-rotation caliber arm to pair with 2023 NL Cy Young award finalist Zac Gallen and veteran right-hander Merrill Kelly. Despite excellent performances from the club’s top two arms, who combined for a 3.39 ERA across 64 starts, the club’s overall rotation ranked just 21st in the majors last season with a 4.67 ERA. That’s thanks to a dearth of quality options behind Gallen and Kelly. Arizona relied on the likes of Brandon Pfaadt, Ryne Nelson, and Zach Davies in the rotation for much of the year, each of whom posted ERAs north of 5.00.
Adding Rodriguez to the mix should help the club’s run prevention efforts considerably. The 30-year-old southpaw enjoyed a career year in 2023 as a member of the Tigers, finishing the season with a 3.30 ERA and 3.66 FIP across 152 2/3 innings of work while striking out 23% of batters faced against a walk rate of just 7.7%. Those strong overall numbers on the season well may have been even stronger had Rodriguez managed to stay healthy all season, as the lefty cruised to a 2.13 ERA and a 25.5% strikeout rate across his first eleven starts of the season.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez subsequently suffered a ruptured pulley tendon at the end of May that wound up sidelining him for the entire month of June. Upon returning in early July, Rodriguez struggled to match his excellent first half performance. The southpaw delivered decent results, with a 4.24 ERA and 4.08 FIP over his final 85 frames, though his strikeout rate dipped to just 21.2% while his walk rate climbed to 8.9%. Fortunately, Rodriguez bounced back down the stretch to post a solid 3.60 ERA in September. Assuming the left-hander is fully healthy entering the 2024 campaign, he would be a strong addition to most any rotation in the majors.
Rodriguez’s strong platform campaign landed him the #11 spot on MLBTR’s annual Top 50 MLB free agents list, where we projected him for a four-year, $82MM deal that turned out to be right on the nose in terms of both years and guarantee, though Rodriguez managed to secure additional incentives that could raise the value of the contract further. While Rodriguez was the seventh-highest rated pitcher on our list, he actually edged out veteran right-hander and fifth-highest rated pitcher Sonny Gray’s total guarantee with the Cardinals by $5MM. That being said, Gray’s contract comes with a substantially higher AAV.
The Diamondbacks have shown a willingness to operate at this level of the rotation market in the past. Setting aside the six-year, $206.5MM megadeal the club signed Zack Greinke to prior to the 2016 season, the largest free agent contract the Diamondbacks have offered to a pitcher was a five-year, $85MM contract for left-hander Madison Bumgarner. That contract proved to be a disaster for Arizona, as Bumgarner posted a 5.23 ERA and 5.17 FIP across 69 starts for the Diamondbacks over the life of the contract before being released early in the 2023 campaign despite remaining on the books for the 2024 season.
The deal pushes Arizona’s payroll into uncharted territory, with RosterResource projecting the club’s 2024 payroll at $114MM prior to the addition of Rodriguez. Factoring in the club’s new addition, they Diamondbacks are on the hook for $134MM in salary commitments for the 2024 campaign, just barely edging out the club’s all-time high payroll of $131MM back in 2018 (per Cot’s Baseball Contracts). The Diamondbacks have made no public indications about their financial limits this offseason, so it’s unclear how much more room, if any, the club has to maneuver for future additions. If the club has more payroll space to work with, an additional rotation arm to shore up the back of the club’s rotation could make sense, as well as a right-handed hitter to slot in at DH. To that end, the club has recently been connected to Lucas Giolito, Seth Lugo, Justin Turner, and J.D. Martinez, though it’s unclear if the club’s interest in the aforementioned starters remains following the signing of Rodriguez.