The Tigers make arguably the biggest splash so far this offseason, landing coveted starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. The contract spans five years and pays Rodriguez between 77-80 million based on performance.
Tigers Get Their Pitcher
Coming into the offseason, Al Avila declared that starting pitching was as big of a need for this ballclub as any. This sentiment seemed to hold true as free agency opened and rumors began linking the Tigers to nearly every starting pitcher on the market, including Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Verlander, Jon Gray, Steven Matz, and Eduardo Rodriguez. As the early days continued to pass, the Tigers continued to be linked to Rodriguez with interest seemingly growing each day. Finally, on Monday, the Tigers got their man.
Other teams interested in Rodriguez included the Blue Jays and Angels, but ultimately the starting pitcher chose to sign in Detroit on a five-year, $77 million deal. The deal also includes incentives that could up that number to $80 million, while also giving Rodriguez a no-trade clause. The contract also offers both sides an opt-out after two years. The contract marks the largest free-agent signing by Detroit since signing Justin Upton for $132.75 million over six years in 2016. After a subpar 2016, the Tigers entered a rebuild which has continued through the 2021 season. Ironically, this signing seems to signal the end of that rebuild.
Starting Rotation Help
Few teams suffered as many injuries to key starters as the Tigers did in 2021. Across the season, Detroit lost Spencer Turnbull for the entire 2021 season (and 2022 for that matter), Matthew Boyd for 2 months (and later, the season), and José Ureña for a month-long stretch. These injuries, paired with the extreme youth and inexperience at the position made finding a quality veteran pitcher a huge necessity this offseason. Guys like Wily Peralta, Tyler Alexander, and Drew Hutchison were able to fill into the rotation admirably, but Detroit clearly doesn’t want to rely on that for the 2022 season.
Coming off a bit of a down year with the Red Sox, Rodriguez posted a 4.74 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP in 2021. However, a deep dive into his numbers suggest he was a much better pitcher than his surface numbers suggest. Rodriguez put up a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.32 which was the best of his career. He also struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings pitched and had a strike-out to walk ratio of nearly 4:1. Rodriguez’s numbers suggest he may have been on the bad end of some bad luck. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls Put in Play) was .364, much higher than the league average of .297. This may partially be in part due to the majority of Rodriguez’s starts coming in a hitter-friendly Fenway Park. These numbers project to fair much better in a pitchers park, like Comerica.
This signing signals the end of the Tigers rebuild. Avila and Illitch have made it clear they are willing to do what it takes to put a winning product on the field in 2022, and the Rodriguez signing feels like only the first step of this free agency cycle.
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