Free Agents Mariners should be wary of... #2: Eduardo Rodriguez
The Detroit Tigers surprised all but a few people by actually competing as a professional baseball team in 2023, taking second place in the AL Central. Leading the charge was a crafty lefty named Eduardo Rodriguez who posted a 2.64 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in the first half of the season before being sidelined with injury. He failed to continue his strong outings after returning from the IL but still managed to end up with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP over 152 ⅔ innings.
Along with recent World Series hero Jordan Montgomery, Rodriguez is one of the most skilled lefties available on the market right now with MLBTradeRumors projecting him to net a contract in the realm of four years, $82 million. With the current cost premium of plus starting pitching, that doesn't actually seem too bad but given his actual peripheral stats, it still might be an overpay.
Like Montgomery, Rodriguez doesn't quite have blow-your-doors-off velocity, averaging 92.2 mph on his four-seam fastball and 88.8 mph on his cutter. While this is by no means a requirement to be successful as a pitcher (hey, remember that Jamie Moyer guy?), Rodriguez doesn't really excel in other areas enough to compensate. Pretty much all of his stats are right around league-average with his best feature being his walk rate at 7.7% (61st percentile).
All of this led him to post an xERA of 4.04, significantly higher than his actual ERA of 3.30. His FIP of 3.66 was actually quite good but hides the relative weakness of his four-seam fastball. Despite it being his primary weapon and having a run value of 7 in 2023, the batting average against was .278. In comparison, opposing batters averaged just .165 against Luis Castillo's four-seam fastball this season.
Eduardo Rodriguez is a good pitcher. He may even be a great pitcher. But is he necessarily worth the estimated $80-90 million and $20 million AAV? Probably not. If he had competed in any division other than the worst in baseball this past season, chances are his stats would've been quite a bit worse. If he were to be shipped to a team in the AL or NL East, don't be surprised to see significant regression across the board.