The Detroit Tigers were supposed to enter the offseason with a renewed willingness to spend money and capitalize on their opening contention window.
They had to back it up with more than just words, though, so they decided to kick off the week with some good news for their fans.
They are, according to multiple outlets, signing free agent pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, formerly on the Boston Red Sox, to a five-year, $77 million contract.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and the Detroit Tigers are in agreement on a five-year deal with between $77 million and $80 million, sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 15, 2021
It is the first major free agent signing of the offseason, one that will likely be marked by the pending owners’ lockout.
He can earn an extra $3 million in incentives, potentially taking the deal’s total value to $80 million.
For Rodriguez, it’s a very nice deal considering he just finished the 2021 season with a mediocre 4.74 ERA and he had to deal with post-COVID myocarditis in 2020.
However, there is much more to baseball, and pitching, than just ERA.
He Was Much Better Than His ERA Indicates
Rodriguez, despite that elevated number, was a very solid pitcher for the Red Sox this year.
ERA is the most widely used run-prevention stat in baseball, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one.
Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, removes batted balls from the equation (mainly because the defense has a lot of influence on their outcome) and considers things that the pitcher can control, such as walks, strikeouts, hits by pitch, and homers.
Rodriguez’s FIP was a much, much better 3.32.
Other run-prevention metrics, such as expected ERA (3.55), expected FIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.64) think E-Rod was a consistent, effective starter.
Very important point about E-Rod. Also remember that he's still very young. Will be going into his age-29 season next year. https://t.co/ogTShnku5q
— D.J. Short (@djshort) November 15, 2021
It was (mainly) not his fault the Red Sox’s defense didn’t do him any favors.
Now, Rodriguez will be arriving to an up-and-coming franchise that can really use his talents: an ability to go deep into outings, get some swings and misses (career 24.4 strikeout percentage) and keep his team in the game.
Additionally, the 28-year-old Rodriguez should remain an effective hurler for most, if not all, of his contract.
Detroit finished 77-85 during the 2021 campaign, and were third in the American League Central division behind the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians).
The Tigers Are Off To A Good Start
The Rodriguez signing is a great way to start building their 2022 rotation.
That unit won’t have Spencer Turnbull, likely out all season after Tommy John surgery.
It remains to be seen what do the Tigers do from this point on, but they are widely expected to improve the shortstop position.
Carlos Correa is their biggest target, and if they can secure his services, he would not only bring a top bat to the lineup, but also one of the best gloves in MLB.
Having such a good shortstop can really help Rodriguez lower that ERA and have it close to every other run-prevention stat.
In any case, Rodriguez is, at worse, a mid-rotation starter with some extra ceiling now that he gets out of the AL East.
At his best, he can perform like a number two for a really talented, hungry team.
Bringing Rodriguez into the fold is a good start to the Tigers’ offseason.