Chicago Cubs: 1 free agent who would make all the difference
Carlos Rodon‘s career has been a wild ride of ups and downs to this point. Despite significant decline in both 2019 and 2020, Rodon has actually posted at least slightly above average marks throughout his seven-year career as a member of the White Sox.
It was a breakout year for Rodon in 2021 as he put it all together and enjoyed this best season to-date, just in time to hit free agency this winter. Along with his first career All-Star selection, Rodon finished the campaign with a 13-5 record to go along with a 2.37 ERA. So why the hesitance when it comes to the left-hander? He comes with a concerning injury history.
Rodon found himself on the 60-day IL in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Even worse, almost all of his injuries have involved his shoulder – including Tommy John surgery back in 2019. In 2020, he re-aggravated that same shoulder and, as I noted, headed back to the IL.
It looked like, at long last, Rodon avoided the injury bug in 2021 – but that proved not to be the case when shoulder fatigue hit late in the year. He hit the 10-day IL in August, but got back on the mound in September, going 3-0, allowing four earned runs in 18 innings of work – although he threw 80 pitches in a start just once during that span, a potential red flag.
He lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his lone postseason start in 2021. Taking all this into account, the injury history is definitely concerning, but there is room to understand why a roll of the dice may be in order here as the Chicago Cubs have the ability to compete this season if they choose to do so.
Given the injury history, it is unlikely the Cubs, or any team for the matter, will be willing to sign Rodon to a multi-year, high-dollar guarantee. It simply isn’t realistic to do so for obvious reasons. However, a one-year pact to prove he’s healthy and ready to pick up where he left off last summer makes all the sense in the world.
Cubs have nothing to lose by giving Carlos Rodon a one-year, prove-it deal
That’s where the Cubs and Tom Ricketts’ checkbook can come into play. As the Cubs dismantled their core in 2021, it made them a candidate to pretty much do whatever they want moving forward. In acquiring so many prospects and greatly improving their farm system, they not only have trade chips available but also have significantly more funds available for free agent signings than they have in years past. For Chicago, the finances are there to take a risk on a properly structured contract with the given knowledge of Rodon’s past.
Rolling the dice on Rodon could go either way for any team who ponies up a contract once the lockout ends. But as alarming as the injury history is, his upside is also sky-high. In 2021, he had the highest strikeout percentage behind Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes and the legendary Max Scherzer. It is at least somewhat promising that he stayed mostly healthy in 2021 going into a contract year.
Exercising caution, the Cubs can structure a deal to be more performance based in terms of total innings pitched bonuses or what have you to help avoid the risk of being at least completely burned should he land on the 60-day IL again. Play well, get paid well. Adding another starter in Rodon gives the Cubs four guys capable of handling their business and turns one of the biggest weaknesses from last year’s team into a major strength.