The Boston Red Sox definitely need a major free agent signing or two in order to compete in what looks to be an extremely competitive American League East Division in Major League Baseball next year. While Joely Rodriguez is certainly not going to be an exciting signing, it is a good signing nonetheless. The left-handed relief pitcher has bounced around a bit in his career, including a successful stint in the Nippon Baseball League of Japan. While his results have varied, Joely has been able to consistently strike out batters since his return to MLB in 2020 with the Texas Rangers.
After a successful Major League debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016, he was hammered in 2017, which led to his stint in Japan. There he figured things out and was able to make the most of his mid-nineties fastball, sinker, and slider. He had a good short stint with the Rangers in 2020, but struggled in 2021. Fortunately, when he was released and picked up by the Yankees, he did very well. Joely pitched well enough, in fact, that the Yankees traded him to the Mets for veteran relief pitcher Miguel Castro. It was a trade that didn’t work out for the Yankees, as Castro was merely mediocre.
While Joely Rodriguez was technically below average for the Mets, he wasn’t any worse than Miguel Castro was for the Yankees. But, unlike Castro, his strikeout to walk ratio was fine; he struck out over 10 batters per nine innings against 4.6 walks, which is a bit high, but acceptable in a relief role. So, it’s no surprise that there was interest from teams seeking bullpen help, especially those not wanting to break the bank for a high-dollar closer or set-up man; of course, most of the best relief pitchers already resigned with their teams for big money.
Only $2 million of this two-year deal is guaranteed for Joely Rodriguez, with $1.5 million set to be paid to Rodriguez in 2022, and the other $500,000 as a guaranteed buy-out in case the Red Sox choose not to pick up his $4.25 million club option for 2024. However, Joely can earn an additional $500,000 bonus for reaching certain roster goals. After 30 days on the roster, he gets $500,000, another $500k after 60 days, another half-million for 90, and finally, another $500,000 for 120 days. So, Rodriguez, if he stays on the roster for the majority of the season, can earn an additional $2 million.
It’s a great deal for Joely Rodriguez, but it also means that the Red Sox are out very little if he turns out to be a bust. His stuff is solid, he gets a lot of ground balls, and limits hard contact. Plus, he’s good against both lefties and righties. MLB Trade Rumors points out that his StatCast metrics were excellent, so it’s no surprise the Red Sox, clearly looking for bargain bin pickups, took a flier on him. It’s very likely the best offer he got.
While Rodriguez is projected to only be worth 0.2 WAR by FanGraphs’ Steamer projections, that’s about what the Sox are paying him to do. Besides Josh Taylor, Joely would be the only lefty reliever projected for the 25-man roster right now. Brandon Walter and Chris Murphy are also lefties on the 40-man, plus Darwinzon Hernandez who was awful for the Red Sox in 2022. So, lefty relief pitching was definitely a need for the Red Sox, and this was a move that did need to be made.
Sure, the Red Sox have a long way to go to do more than tread water in 2023, especially if they lose shortstop Xander Bogaerts. While the Red Sox won’t make up for their big free agent losses with a single relief pitcher, it’s still a solid baseball move.