The Top 10 Landing Spots for Giants' Carlos Rodón in MLB Free Agency
Two years after he wasn't even tendered a contract for the 2021 season, Carlos Rodón is now unequivocally the best left-hander on Major League Baseball's free-agent market.
As such, it is with great enthusiasm that we're about to size up his top landing spots.
Rodón, 29, is only a free agent because he opted not to exercise his $22.5 million player option for 2023 that was part of his last contract with the San Francisco Giants. Understandably so, given that the 2022 campaign saw him earn a second straight All-Star selection en route to a 2.88 ERA over 178 innings.
Before we get into where Rodón might end up, let's first discuss what kind of contract he's in for.
What Might It Cost to Sign Rodón?
Let's begin by acknowledging the obvious risk associated with Rodón: durability.
Though the former No. 3 pick is sturdily built at 6'3", 245 pounds, his injury history includes shoulder surgery in 2017 and Tommy John surgery in 2019. He also battled shoulder fatigue in the latter half of 2021, resulting in him pitching 43 innings—with significantly reduced velocity, to boot—after the All-Star break.
Thankfully, Rodón put some of these concerns to rest in 2022. His 178 innings and 31 starts set new career highs. And while it generally did decline, his fastball velocity didn't fall off as sharply in the second half as it did in 2021.
From an overall performance perspective, Rodón has been fantastic in racking up a 2.67 ERA with 422 strikeouts and 88 walks over 310.2 innings across the last two seasons. His fastball, which has sat at 95.5 mph and gotten as high as 100.5 mph, has been MLB's best pitch by run value.
With Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray having signed five-year deals worth $110 and $115 million respectively during the 2021-22 offseason, Rodón figures to do at least that well even despite his ties to draft-pick compensation after rejecting a qualifying offer from the Giants.
We originally projected the southpaw for $120 million over five years, but it now seems we might have aimed too low. Other projections for Rodón go as high as $140 million (MLB Trade Rumors) and $150 million (Jon Heyman of the New York Post).
With all this in mind, let's weigh 10 potential suitors for Rodón based on their need for him, their available resources and their contention timelines.
10-6: Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins
10. Houston Astros
SP rWAR in 2022: 17.7
Projected 2023 Payroll: $164 Million
The Astros rotation was captained by Justin Verlander, who just won his third Cy Young Award on Wednesday, in 2022. But he's a free agent now, and the Astros may well have to fill his slot if he departs for cash-ier pastures.
The Astros haven't done a nine-figure deal in free agency since they signed Carlos Lee in 2006, so them signing Rodón might be a reach. But given the team's track record with pitchers who possess explosive stuff, it's a dream worth having for Astros fans.
9. New York Yankees
SP rWAR in 2022: 10.6
Projected 2023 Payroll: $206 Million
The rotation that the Yankees had in 2022 is mostly intact, save for a hole left by Jameson Taillon's free agency. If they think Nestor Cortes is more of a No. 3 than a No. 2 behind Gerrit Cole, perhaps they'll endeavor to fill that hole with Rodón.
That would, however, cost them their second- and fifth-highest picks in the 2023 draft and $1 million from their international bonus pool. That's a steep penalty. And besides, another starter is more of a want than a need relative to re-signing newly minted MVP Aaron Judge.
8. Toronto Blue Jays
SP rWAR in 2022: 8.2
Projected 2023 Payroll: $176 Million
The Blue Jays went into Wednesday with a relatively bloated payroll, but the trade of slugger Teoscar Hernández to the Seattle Mariners cleared a projected $14.1 million salary from their books. That should equal more leeway to fill needs, including that of a starter.
If nothing else, the idea of Rodón being that guy is a fun one. Whether it's realistic is another matter. What the Blue Jays need is not so much a No. 1 as a No. 3, so they're perhaps more likely to go big on a left-handed bat and/or relievers with swing-and-miss stuff.
7. Baltimore Orioles
SP rWAR in 2022: 6.3
Projected 2023 Payroll: $41 Million
The Orioles laid the foundation for a contention run with their 83-win effort in 2022, but a No. 1 starter remains their biggest missing piece. So when Jim Bowden of The Athletic says they're swimming in the "deep end" of the pitching market, it's believable enough.
As to whether the Orioles will spring for Rodón, there's room for doubt. Even if they can afford him, the reality that they haven't yet fully turned the corner into contention might have them spooked about surrendering its third-highest pick in the 2023 draft.
6. Minnesota Twins
SP rWAR in 2022: 5.9
Projected 2023 Payroll: $98 Million
The Twins typically aren't associated with big spending on the open market, but, hey, it was only in March that they shocked everyone by signing Carlos Correa. Now, the word from ESPN's Jeff Passan is that they're likely to go "really big" this winter.
Especially if they can't re-sign Correa, it wouldn't be surprising if the Twins targeted Rodón for a big splash. To wit, their starting pitching struggled in 2022 in part because it lacked strikeouts. And for a team in their position, it should be too much to ask that they be willing to part with their third-highest pick in the 2023 draft.
5. Boston Red Sox
SP rWAR in 2022: 9.0
Projected 2023 Payroll: $133 Million
It was a tale of two seasons for the Red Sox's starting pitching in 2022, as it started strong and then went off the rails as the club landed in last place in the American League East:
Nothing influenced that collapse quite like the injury bug. Chris Sale's return from a ribcage injury in July was short-lived. Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill also spent time on the injured list.
As the latter three are now currently afloat on the free-agent market, there's no overstating just how badly the Red Sox need starters. A proper No. 1 such as Rodón would go a long way toward giving the club a foothold on the path back to relevance in the AL East.
Though Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Red Sox are signaling a "strong willingness," there are nonetheless reasons to pump the brakes. Re-signing Xander Bogaerts and extending Rafael Devers take precedence. Further, signing Rodón would cost Boston its second- and fifth-highest picks in the 2023 draft, plus $1 million in international bonus money.
4. Texas Rangers
SP rWAR in 2022: 4.9
Projected 2023 Payroll: $140 Million
There's no need for speculation here. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Rangers are indeed interested in Rodón:
Jon Morosi @jonmorosi
Sources: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rangers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rangers</a> are showing interest in the top of the free-agent pitching market and have made contact with the agents for Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon, and Kodai Senga. Texas also faces an imminent QO decision on Martín Pérez. <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBNetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLBNetwork</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLB</a>
To be sure, Texas' need for Rodón is slightly less drastic now that Martín Pérez is back in the fold. Fresh off a surprise All-Star season, the veteran lefty opted not to test the open market in accepting a qualifying offer from the Rangers.
Still, the Rangers rotation is once again projected to be among MLB's worst even with Pérez and newcomer Jake Odorizzi lined up alongside incumbents Jon Gray, Dane Dunning and Glenn Otto. That group is simply crying out for an ace.
Rodón is obviously that guy, and he would seem to be well within Texas' price range. The club's $140 million projection for 2023 is only $6 million below what it spent in 2022, but its payroll has previously gone as high as $165.3 million in 2017.
Of course, signing Rodón would also cost Texas its second-highest pick in the 2023 draft and $500,000 from its international bonus pool. And if Rodón wants to make money and contend, he'll perhaps have doubts about joining a team fresh off a 94-loss campaign.
3. San Francisco Giants
SP rWAR in 2022: 14.0
Projected 2023 Payroll: $133 Million
With regard to the Giants' desire to bring Rodón back, there's no need for speculation.
Farhan Zaidi, the club's president of baseball operations, told reporters in October that "there's mutual interest" in a reunion between the Giants and Rodón. As relayed by Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, neither has backed off since then:
Why the Giants would want Rodón back perhaps doesn't require elaboration, but we'll get into some anyway. He was an obvious bright spot amid a disappointing 81-81 season in 2022, especially as the Giants went 12-8 in the games he started after June 12. The team otherwise went 37-47 in that stretch.
As to whether the southpaw is in San Francisco's price range, there would seem to be no question about it. The Giants have carried payrolls as large as $200.5 million in the past, which hypothetically gives them room to add $70 million to next year's payroll.
Factoring in that there's clearly still room for Rodón and that the Giants wouldn't need to surrender any picks if they re-signed him, the only things standing in the way of this reunion would seem to be whether Rodón can find another taker that's willing to either pay more or give him a more immediate shot at a ring.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
SP rWAR in 2022: 18.7
Projected 2023 Payroll: $152 Million
The Dodgers moved quickly to fill one of several holes in their starting rotation, re-signing franchise icon Clayton Kershaw on a one-year deal.
Now they just have to fill the others, lest they leave not quite good enough alone.
Effective though Kershaw still is, the Dodgers haven't been able to count on him for 30-plus starts since 2015. As Tony Gonsolin recently dealt with a forearm injury and Dustin May was unable to stay off the IL for long after returning from Tommy John surgery in August, they also come with durability questions.
As Rodón's 178 innings were nearly identical to the 178.2 that the Dodgers got from Tyler Anderson in 2022, they could view swapping the latter out for the former as a fair trade on the durability front. Talent-wise, of course, Rodón's ceiling goes a fair bit higher.
The Dodgers' 2023 payroll is $110 million below what they spent in 2022, so money doesn't seem to be an issue. If they pass on Rodón, it could be because they focused their efforts on the left side of their infield or that they simply didn't want to lose their second-and fifth-highest picks and $1 million from the international bonus pool.
1. New York Mets
SP rWAR in 2022: 14.7
Projected 2023 Payroll: $235 Million
It's a high-priced star we're talking about, so of course the Mets must be part of the discussion.
The Mets spent $282 million in 2022, but deep-pocketed owner Steve Cohen has hinted that a $300 million payroll is possible. If so, there's more than enough space for Rodón.
The catch is that signing him might close the door on a reunion with deGrom, but how bad of a thing is that, really? You won't get us to say Rodón is the better pitcher, but he's obviously been very good while also being twice the workhorse that deGrom has been over the last two years.
For Rodón, there might not be a better option out there as far as getting a proper payday and a chance to experience October glory. The first thing, we've covered. As for the second, chances are 2022 won't be the Mets' last 100-win season for a while.
The potential snag here concerns how signing Rodón would cost the Mets their second- and fifth-highest picks and $1 million in international bonus money. That might not be a deal-breaker for the Mets in a vacuum, but perhaps it will be if the market pushes deGrom and/or Chris Bassitt back to them on favorable deals that would merely cost money.