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Is there much of a chance Carlos Rodón returns to the South Side?
It seems the conditions would need to be really right in order for the White Sox to welcome back the guy who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young vote last year.
After all, the White Sox already faced a decision on whether to bring Rodón back for the 2022 season, opting to not even extend a qualifying offer, a one-year deal worth a little north of $18 million, in November. General manager Rick Hahn explained that decision as the White Sox not wanting to make that specific kind of deal with the left-hander, basically laying out that the team would be up for a reunion if the price was right.
“Essentially, it’s a contract offer of $18.4 million for one (year). And we made the assessment based on everything we know, which includes our needs and our other targets, that that wasn’t an offer we were comfortable making at this time ,” Hahn said during the GM meetings. “We have not ruled out him returning. He knows that. … We’ll see how his market unfolds and what the options are for us over the coming months.
“That specific contract was not offered to him. Doesn’t mean we’re not interested in potentially finding a way to bring him back.”
But even if the price does end up being right – The Athletic’s Jim Bowden recently pegged Rodón as a free agent who’s likely to sign quickly on the other side of the lockout, likely to another one-year pact – the White Sox would have to be willing to make room in their rotation, which currently boasts a full five-man boat.
Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease aren’t going anywhere, Michael Kopech’s ascent to the rotation comes with developmental ramifications for the franchise’s future, and even if Dallas Keuchel wound up the odd man out, the front office would have to find a way to move the final guaranteed year of his contract, adding more to its preseason to-do list.
But mostly, it’s about figuring out Rodón’s market, which is not at all easy.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees asked for the medical report on Rodón prior to the lockout, and truthfully, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that every team did. Rodón is a free-agent arm that can help any rotation, but unfortunately for him, in the wake of a long awaited breakout season, his health is still among his top headlines.
Rodón has a history of significant arm and shoulder injuries, and even if those are behind him, he spent the last couple months of the 2021 campaign dealing with shoulder fatigue, which made his availability for the postseason a gigantic question mark until the day before his Game 4 start in the ALDS.
That history, both longstanding and more recent, will dictate his free-agent market, hence Bowden’s speculation that a one-year “prove it” deal is likely. So no matter what Scott Boras, Rodón’s agent, says about wanting a multi-year deal, that might not pan out for the lefty this time around.
That’s potentially a point in favor of him returning to the White Sox. But remember, too, that no team knows Rodón’s health better than the White Sox. So if there are the kinds of issues that would breed hesitancy, Hahn’s front office knows about them – perhaps enough to the point that it can place an acceptable cost on Rodón’s 2022, one it’s already made clear is below $18.4 million.
The other side of the equation depends on how badly you believe the White Sox need starting pitching. I’m of the opinion it’s not among their greatest needs at the moment, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Hahn ride with the quintet currently comprising his starting staff and only pursue potential depth in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season.
That might be a difficult breakup for some fans to stomach, given how flat-out dominant Rodón was when healthy last season, a big reason why the White Sox boasted the AL’s top rotation during the regular season. Things were different in the postseason, and the starting-pitching failures of those four days have, for some, defined the outlook for 2022. Rodón, of course, was part of that.
But four days in October don’t stand up to six months’ worth of regular-season results in determining just how badly the White Sox need starting-pitching assistance. While there are a couple big question marks looming in Kopech and Keuchel, Rodón would surely count as one of those, too, if he were to return, given the way his 2021 ended. Bringing him back on a relatively affordable one-year deal – what the White Sox did an offseason ago – would be a good move, but it wouldn’t be one with an assurance of success, or at least no guarantee he’d be better than Keuchel, who he would perhaps replace.
Surely Hahn hasn’t lost Rodón’s number, nor Boras’, and if there’s a fit, in terms of dollars as much as in terms of the roster, you can count on him to check in. But with Rodón’s left-handedness likely to make him a popular enough free agent, perhaps teams asking around, like the Yankees, will spend at a level to prevent a reunion with the White Sox.
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