Baseball contracts are a risky business and buying out arbitration and free agency can amplify that risk. Should the Boston Red Sox now extend Eduardo Rodriguez or just wait?
Baseball can be a tease when talent is occasionally displayed, but not consistently and that summarizes the brief career of lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. There is no denying the talent when it does surface and no denying the downside when Rodriguez decides to come apart with a bad inning – usually walk fueled.
The Rodriguez saga is also littered with injuries that surface every year. The injuries also seem to linger and compound the mystery of Rodriguez. Maybe 2019 will be different? The season started poorly for E-Rod as it did for the rest of his compadres in the rotation, but since then Rodriguez has rebounded,
The Red Sox have had no issues of extending contracts and did so with Xander Bogaerts and Chris Sale. The Red Sox took a risk on Nathan Eovaldi and forked over a four-year deal. Money is not an issue, but luxury tax concerns are as the Red Sox tread along the precipice of every increasing penalty luxury tax penalties, but the choice may be simplified.
Rick Porcello is in his last season of a four-year deal and that will extricate $21.125 MM from the books. Part of that could be directed to extending Rodriguez. Payroll manipulation on the roster is fast become both an art form and a cruel decision-making process. The money would be available with either hard choices or some inventive accounting. But do you want Rodriguez?
In 2018 statistically, Rodriguez and Porcello were quite similar. If you use WAR then in 23 starts E-Rod posted a 2.0 fWAR and Porcello in 33 starts a 2.4 fWAR. A similarity exists within the various metrics, but the separation is one of reliability. I would certainly view Rodriguez as a seamless replacement for Porcello with the inherent risk of a Rodriguez on the IL.
In a perfect baseball world unencumbered by monetary concerns, I would certainly have both Porcello and Rodriguez in my rotation. That may not be the case. So do the Red Sox extended? Is the assumption that Rodriguez is finally going to make 30+ starts for this season and the next and the next?
This is a risk worth taking. The Red Sox can buy out arbitration years and certainly a year or two in the Rodriguez free agent calendar. Rodriguez is talented – there is no denying that. Rodriguez is just 26-years-old and could potentially be a key cog in the rotation for several seasons. What do you pay him is the next question to be answered. Rodriguez has already reached accommodations for 2019 with a settlement of $4.3 MM. Now what?
One possible tool is to use what arbitration figures have been team offered to similar pitchers. The factor that is involved in service time and after this season Rodriguez will have 4.13 years of service time. You can examine the arbitration for the last few seasons and see names and numbers that are similar – Michael Wacha, Tanner Roark, and even Drew Pomeranz who settled for $8.5 MM after his 2017 season.
What becomes apparent is Rodriguez is in for a windfall if he produces. Buying out arbitration is not cheap nor is a free agency year. What can make it expensive is if a player does not produce? The proverbial risk versus reward. In this instance, I would take the risk.