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Detroit Tigers’ Rebuild Enters Next Phase

The Detroit Tigers made their second significant move this off-season today.  They have signed left-handed starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year deal reported to be worth at least $77 million.

This signing is on the heels of a trade/extension for Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart from Cincinnati two weeks ago.  It is consistent with GM Al Avila’s comments on the Tigers’ free agency priorities: starting pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. The Tigers are believed to be seeking one more established starting pitcher to complement their core of young starting pitchers.  The Tigers are also considered to be a front-runner in the chase to sign Carlos Correa, Houston’s star shortstop. Correa had played under current Tigers manager A.J. Hinch for five seasons (2015-2019), and their personal ties are believed to be strong.

Rodriguez (“E-Rod”), 28, had recently rejected both the one-year qualifying offer and multi-year deal from the Boston Red Sox. His contract comes with a guaranteed $28 million over the first two years.  Rodriguez’s contract also has a player opt-out option after 2023, according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes.

Detroit Tigers Rebuild Continues

The five-year deal for Rodriguez further signals the next phase of the Tigers’ rebuilding process. After 2015-16 free agent signings of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann to long-term contracts, the club underwent four years of one-year-only free agent signings. Last off-season, the Tigers tendered their first multi-year deal in five years – to outfielder Robbie Grossman with a 2-year contract. In the midst of the 2021 season, the Tigers inked infielder Jonathan Schoop to a two-year extension which will run through the 2023 season. That makes five players signed to multi-year contracts through at least the 2023 season for the Tigers–Rodriguez, Barnhart, Grossman, Schoop, and Miguel Cabrera.

Eduardo Rodriguez’ Performance in 2021

The Blue Jays and Angels were amongst those interested in signing Eduardo Rodriguez, in addition to the Red Sox and Tigers.  He had a respectable but not spectacular comeback 2021 season, recording a 13-8 record with 4.74 ERA over 31 starts and one relief appearance for the Red Sox. Rodriguez missed the entire 2020 season due to myocarditis (heart inflammation) that originated from a COVID-19 infection. He had a career-best strikeout rate in 2021, fanning over 27% of the batters he faced. This was almost five percentage points better than the league average for starting pitchers. At the same time, he had a career-best walk rate, coming in at 7% bases on balls. Over his six-year major league career, Rodriguez has averaged 3.1 walks per 9 innings pitched–close to the league average.

Rodriguez went 1-1 over three starts in the 2021 post-season in games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros. He famously pointed to his wrist as he left the mound after six strong innings against the Astros in Game 3 of the ALCS, an apparent mimicking of Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa’s ‘It’s My Time’ gesture after a home run in Game 1. Red Sox manager Alex Cora glared at his pitcher and yelled ‘Hey – NO! NO!’ to Rodriguez as he walked off the field. As Rodriguez reached the dugout, Cora immediately pulled him in close. Cora then talked directly into Rodriguez’s right ear about not ‘showing up’ the opposing team.  Cora did this while patting Rodriguez on the back for his solid pitching performance.

Draft Pick Consequences of the Signing

By losing Rodriguez via free agency, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory pick in next summer’s amateur draft. The draft pick will be after completion of Competitive Balance Round B (typically #70 to #75 overall).  The Red Sox are entitled to this pick since they had tendered Rodriguez a qualifying offer and did not receive revenue sharing in 2021 or exceed the luxury tax threshold.  The Tigers forfeit an amateur draft pick next summer by signing a qualified free agent in Rodriguez. Detroit received revenue sharing in 2021, so they will lose their third-highest draft choice next year. If the Tigers sign another qualified free agent this off-season, they would also forfeit their fourth-highest draft pick next summer.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Eduardo Rodriguez, Tucker Barnhart, Carlos Correa, Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Robbie Grossman, Jonathan Schoop, Miguel Cabrera


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