By now, it is looking like the Yankees won’t be spending too much this offseason. They will field a strong team in 2021 regardless. However, they do need to bring some reinforcements to the starting rotation, which is lacking in depth considering that three members of the 2020 staff are free agents.
And if the Yankees are not going to sign Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka or James Paxton, and if they think that the trade market is too prohibitive in terms of what opposing teams want in the prospects and MLB-ready players department, the only option left is low-cost, high-upside alternatives in free agency.
Along those lines, the Yankees could consider a pitcher that not so long ago, before injuries appeared, was considered among the more promising in the game: left-handed starter Carlos Rodón.
Back in 2014, Rodón was a first-round pick in the MLB Draft, and oozed potential. Six years later, he was non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox and is now free to sign with any team. In between, he has teased with moments of dominance (in 2019, he had a 3.62 FIP and an 11.9 K/9 mark in 34.2 frames, for example) and suffered lots of arm injuries. Lots and lots of them.
Since he was drafted, he has nursed injuries in his left elbow, shoulder, wrist, and biceps. I lost count of the times he missed starts with shoulder inflammation. But he is now healthy and available.
Given his projected salary in arbitration, which is $4.5 million, the Yankees could bring him on a short-term, show-me deal if he’s willing to come to the Bronx and compete for a spot.
By the numbers
Last season's numbers were ugly, but they came in only 7.2 innings. His 8.22 ERA jumps to the eye, but his 4.89 FIP is much more decent. Either way, it is a ridiculously small sample size.
In 2019, he had a 5.19 ERA but with the aforementioned 3.62 FIP. In 34.2 frames, he had an 11.9 K/9, the highest of his career. He has a problem with walks, though his 3.87 career BB/9 mark is manageable. But it’s clear that, when healthy, Rodón can miss bats.
Let’s hone in on his 2019, since it provided at least a slightly larger sample than his brief 2020. His fastball was blasted, to the tune of a .306 xBA, .612 xSLG, .449 xwOBA, yet he threw it 51.6 percent of the time. On the other hand, he had a 42.0 whiff rate with his slider and a 48.5 one with his changeup. It would be ideal to decrease his fastball usage and increase both of his secondaries. Or perhaps Sam Briend and Matt Blake can help him develop his sinker to avoid his heater from getting rocked time and time again. According to Baseball Savant, he threw three sinkers in 2019.
If the cost is low, maybe the Yankees’ analytics department and increased tech resources can be put in place to help Rodón maximize his talents. To me, he looks like a guy that needs a change of scenery (and pitch mix). It wasn’t very long ago that the baseball world, or at least the Chicago White Sox, thought highly enough of Rodón to make him a top-three overall pick. As long as it came as a low-risk flyer, the Yankees could do worse than giving Rodón a chance to recapture some former glory.