The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to shop players this winter. The Marlins are looking for some bullpen arms and could show interest in Richard Rodriguez.
New Miami Marlin’s general manager Kim Ng recently stated in a press conference that the team’s front office will be adding to the bullpen. She noted that this is their top priority this off season. This could make them natural trade partners with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Marlins recently acquired submariner Adam Cimber from the Cleveland Indians to join Yimi Garcia and Richard Bleier as two other arms returning to the Marlins for 2021. However, with the Pittsburgh Pirates shopping many of their veteran players, the Marlins could be interested in Bucco righty Richard Rodriguez. With MLB’s Winter Meetings just around the corner, we could see some rumors connecting Rodriguez to the Marlins.
Rodriguez is coming off a nice bounceback season. In his third full season in the Majors, Rodriguez posted a 2.70 ERA, 2.85 FIP and 0.86 WHIP across 23.1 innings of work. Rodriguez is a strikeout machine, posting a 36.6% strikeout rate. It doesn’t come at the cost of his control either with a strong 5.4% walk rate. He did surrender 3 home runs, but a 1.16 HR/9 is not bad in today’s game.
Rodriguez did struggle mightily in his sophomore season, giving up 14 home runs in 65.1 innings and having a 2.74 K/BB ratio, but he had an outstanding rookie season back in 2018. Rodriguez became a fairly underrated relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates that season pitching to the tune of a 2.47 ERA, 2.60 FIP and 1.06 WHIP across 69.1 innings. He gave up just 5 long balls while putting up his typical high strikeout (31.5%) and low walk (6.8%) rates.
Most ERA predictors are positive toward Rich Rod. In 2018, he had a 2.73 SIERA, 2.65 expected ERA, 2.82 DRA and 3.47 xFIP. This past season, Rodriguez put up a 2.40 SIERA, 3.28 expected ERA, 3.59 DRA and 2.83 xFIP.
Rodriguez throws two pitches, that being his fastball and slider. His fastball velocity sits around average in the top 49th percentile of all pitchers at 92.9 MPH, however, he puts tons of spin on the pitch. With 2543 RPM, Rodriguez sits in the top 96th percentile of all pitchers in fastball spin. His slider consistently has elite vertical break. With 46.6 inches of vertical movement, it was 5.2 inches better than average.
There is one glaring issue with Rodriguez and that’s his batted ball rates. His exit velocity and hard hit rate have since 2018. Last year he had a 51% hard hit rate and 91.8 MPH exit velocity. These were in the bottom 1 percent and bottom 3 percent of all pitchers. It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t get many ground balls. Still, Rodriguez posted workable exit velocity and hard hit numbers in 2018 and 2019.
Rodriguez is controlled through 2023 and this is his first year of arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors projects the right-hander to make around $1-$1.5 million in arbitration this winter. This makes him not only affordable in terms of salary, but a solid bullpen arm with control remaining.
Relief pitching in today’s market has gotten teams back pretty decent returns. Even arms that aren’t on an elite level like Shane Greene, Sam Dyson and Mychal Givens have brought back their former teams at least one notable prospect. Two of which were rentals at the time. Now granted, they were traded at the deadline, but the point still stands that they were non-elite level bullpen arms yet teams were willing to pay a premium for them. This is part of the reason why the Pittsburgh Pirates may look to shop Rodriguez.
The Marlins have a strong farm system with five top 100 prospects, two of which are pitchers. It seems they want to build around their pitching staff. Last year, Pablo Lopez, Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara and Elieser Hernandez all established themselves as quality rotation options for the Marlins and are all 25-years-old or younger entering 2021. They also have some quality bats including former Brewer All-Star Jesus Aguilar, Garrett Cooper who had a fine breakout 2020 season, Brian Anderson, and former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielders Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson. Many of their other top prospects like Jazz Chisholm, J.J. Bleday, Jesus Sanchez, Monte Harrison and Lewin Diaz all have ETA’s of 2021.
Their strong farm could help the Pittsburgh Pirates out. While they may not be able to get someone like Chisholm, Bleday or Max Meyer for Rodriguez, their depth they have definitely gives the Pirates many options to target if the Marlins do show some interest in the relief pitcher.