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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Carlos Rodón

The left-hander can take the Yankees’ rotation to the next level but probably won’t be a priority signing

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

In 2021, former No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodón finally put it all together for the Chicago White Sox. Nontendered after a few injury-plagued seasons, the Pale Hose brought him back on a one-year deal and he rewarded them with a 2.37 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 132.2 frames. The first-time All-Star accumulated 4.9 fWAR, by far the best mark of his career, but it wasn’t enough to land a lucrative long-term deal.

Lingering arm soreness affected him in the stretch run last season, and Rodón didn’t fare well in his lone start in the postseason. His history, combined with the lockout and teams being cautious with the uncertain financial landscape, resulted in the 29-year-old having to “settle” for a two-year, $44 million contract from the San Francisco Giants.

That pact had an opt-out after the season, which Rodón ended up using to enter the 2022-23 free agent market after affirming his status as a frontline starter.

2022 Statistics: 31 games, 178 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.25 FIP, 2.91 xFIP, 11.98 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, 6.2 fWAR

Previous Contract: Signed a two-year, $44 million contract with the Giants in 2022. Opted out of final year and $22.5 million, becoming a free agent.

Before and after the lockout last year, teams had received and reviewed Rodón’s medicals and most of them said they looked “very good.” But they just didn’t want to risk a long-term deal without seeing him repeat his 2021 performance and stay healthy all year.

Well, the southpaw did just that in 2022 with the Giants. Not only did he dominate to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and a 237/52 K/BB ratio across 178 innings, but he posted a career-high in fWAR for the second consecutive year, at 6.2. He had a 2.25 FIP (!) and looked better than ever: his fastball had zip and top-notch velocity all year, and his slider was magnificent once again:

A big reason behind Rodón’s recent success stems from the fact he found more fastball velocity in 2021 (and maintained it in 2022) and, as a result, his four-seamer usage has been on the rise:

Baseball Savant

Now, having pitched at an elite level for back-to-back All-Star seasons (one in each league) and showing his arm is healthy, Rodón is in line to get the long-term deal he deserves. He will be 30 when spring training comes, his fastball velocity is still there, and his command and control are both excellent.

Of course, it should be acknowledged that the Yankees’ priority will be re-signing Aaron Judge. After that, they also need to figure out their third base, shortstop, and left field situations. The offense is more of a need right now.

That being said, are you telling me that the prospect of a Gerrit Cole – Nestor Cortes – Luis Severino – Carlos Rodón top four in the rotation isn’t enticing? Make up whatever order you’d like; it’d be great regardless. If the Yankees were forced to either spend their funds on Judge or improve other areas, if it’s one or the other, everyone will pick the star outfielder and face of the franchise, of course. But the Yankees don’t have to choose; they just want to do that most of the time.

They could bring in Judge and Rodón while giving shortstop to Oswald Peraza, handing left field to Oswaldo Cabrera and signing an inexpensive reliever or two; plus testing the trade market and looking for an upgrade in the hot corner. They are unlikely to do that, however.

There is another aspect that the Yankees’ front office will consider: the Giants extended the qualifying offer to Rodón and he rejected it. Rather than settling for that one-year, $19.65 million contract with the Giants, he will test the market and look for that long-term job security that the pitcher wants and, in this case, has earned. This means that the Yankees will have to give draft compensations to the Giants if they sign Rodón, and they may well be reluctant to do that for someone who could be perceived as a luxury.

The market for Rodón will likely be fierce this time around. There will surely be plenty of potential suitors, so much so that he will get to pick his next destination among several competitive offers.

Will the Yankees be one of the teams making one? While he certainly qualifies as an impact signing, the reality indicates that New York Yankees has other targets and positions they seem to prioritize. If they are going to spend big, they likely won’t do it for Rodón.

It’s too bad, because they could and probably should.