Looking at his numbers, why wouldn’t they be? Rodon just turned in an excellent year for the San Francisco Giants. Not only did he post an impressive 2.88 ERA in 31 starts, but Rodon also struck out 237 hitters in just 178 innings. This led to him leading the majors with 12 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and also a 2.25 FIP.
Sure enough, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports Rodon is seeking a seven-year contract. Cut to Jon Heyman at The Post, and the Yankees don’t seem willing to go more than four or five.
Fans may not realize it, but this healthy skepticism is exactly what general manager Brian Cashman should be exhibiting when it comes to Rodon. The big lefty still has plenty of question marks despite just having a career season. So many that if it’s seven years or bust, New York should bow out of negotiations.
The most obvious reason for not committing that many years to Rodon is simple. His sustained success is over a small sample size. From 2021-22, he posted a 2.67 ERA and 1.00 WHIP and even threw a no-hitter.
In his six preceding seasons, however, his ERA was a slightly sub-average 4.14 and with a lengthy injury history. Rodon had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and also has a history of shoulder trouble. He also really only throws three pitches, per Statcast. The idea of only one or none of them working in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium suddenly seems a bit more daunting.
So what happened that Rodon reversed his fortunes? Looking at FanGraphs, he’s adjusted to increase his average fastball velocity. It’s now around 95.5 mph after sitting around 93 for the first six years of his career. Greg Joyce of The Post noted a change in Rodon’s leg mechanics, and he’s also abandoned his changeup for a curveball.
This is the man who has been in the league for eight years, of which only two were really notable, and now wants a seven-year deal.
Mind you, none of this is to say the Yankees shouldn’t pursue Rodon. Just that there are enough concerns that a five-year deal makes more sense than seven years for him. Even with all of the concerns, Rodon is a good match for New York.
Let’s start with his 2.16 career ERA in Yankee Stadium. The Bronx isn’t an easy place to pitch, yet Rodon had ice water in his veins when pitching as a visitor. It also helps that he owns a respectable 3.69 ERA against the other four teams in the AL East. In particular, Rodon has a 2.70 ERA against the slugging upstart Blue Jays.
But most important of all, Rodon has the Astros’ number to the point of near-ownership. In seven starts against the defending champs, he’s 2-0 with a 1.55 ERA. Suddenly, facing a Justin Verlander-less Astros team in the playoffs seems less daunting.
Rodon has proven he deserves a lucrative free agent contract. He also just turned 30 over the weekend and is looking at his long-term future.
The Yankees should absolutely offer him a contract. Just not for seven years.