As the dust settled on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ magical run to the 2023 World Series, it became clear that item No. 1 this offseason was getting themselves one more reliable starter. On Wednesday night, they did just that, reportedly signing Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year, $80 million contract (which, per Jon Heyman, includes a vesting option that can take it up to five years and $99 million).
Rodriguez picked a great time to put together arguably the best season of his career. The lefty went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 26 starts with the Tigers in 2023, making it an easy decision to opt out of the final three years and $49 million left on his contract and enter free agency once again. His vetoing of a potential deadline deal that would’ve sent him to the Dodgers raised questions as to his willingness to head out west, but his agreeing to a deal with Arizona seemingly puts those concerns to bed — and represents some very nice business for the reigning NL champs. (Somehow, that still feels a little strange to say.)
D-backs GM Mike Hazen knew that his rotation was in need of another reliable arm if it had any chance of repeating its pennant run in 2024. Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and breakout rookie Brandon Pfaadt carried Arizona in the postseason, but a 162-game marathon requires far more depth, especially considering that Pfaadt remains something of an unknown — his brilliant October was so shocking because he was largely dreadful during the regular season. Hazen also knew that, while he had some money to spend, he was unlikely to land the very biggest fish in the free-agent pond.
Rodriguez may not have quite the track record of Aaron Nola or the ace upside of Blake Snell and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but the 30-year-old is a rock-solid No. 3 — exactly where he’ll be slotted in Arizona behind Gallen and Kelly. He’s posted a 3.93 ERA over his last four seasons, striking out a batter per inning and averaging 27 starts a year in that span (a number only dragged down by a personal situation that cost him significant time with Detroit in 2022).
The D-backs have an ace in Gallen and an underappreciated No. 2 in Kelly; what they needed most was a reliable source of above-average innings, and that’s Rodriguez’s stock in trade — with the added bonus of big-time postseason experience, particularly during the Red Sox’ 2018 World Series run. This deal will only take Rodriguez through his age-34 season, and in this market $20 million is a more than reasonable price to pay for a third starter. Coupled with the November trade for third baseman Eugenio Suarez, Hazen has swiftly and decisively checked the two biggest boxes of his offseason, and now he can move on to adding more pitching depth on the margins while maybe dipping into the DH/corner outfield market. (Which is a relatively robust one, from Joc Pederson to Jorge Soler to Justin Turner to J.D. Martinez to potential reunions with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and/or Tommy Pham.)
Oddsmakers remain skeptical that Arizona can recapture last season’s magic; per DraftKings Sportsbook, the D-backs remain at +3000 to win the 2024 World Series even after the Rodriguez signing. But the Snakes are young, talented and sneaky deep, and they’ve addressed their two biggest needs with proven veterans. As we just got done learning, you underestimate them at your own peril.