Pittsburgh Pirates: Reviewing the Richard Rodríguez Trade One Season Later

Aug 12, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bryse Wilson (32) throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bryse Wilson (32) throws a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Richard Rodríguez over a year ago now, so how has the trade worked out for both teams?

It’s been over a whole year since the Pittsburgh Pirates traded relief pitcher Richard Rodríguez. The Pirates had gotten a few good years out of Rich Rod, who had been a minor league signee by the Pirates in the 2017-2018 offseason. The Pirates shipped the right-handed reliever to the eventual World Series winning Atlanta Braves. Now that the trade has seen all parties play for their teams for an extended period, how has the swap aged?

At the time, Rodríguez was pitching to the tune of a 2.82 ERA, 2.60 FIP, and 0.84 WHIP through 38.1 innings. Rodríguez’s 22.8% strikeout rate was uncharacteristically low for him, but his 3.4% walk rate was the 5th best among all qualified relievers. His 0.47 HR/9 was also a career-best and ranked top 25 among qualified relief arms.

The Pirates received two players in return. The first was Bryse Wilson. Wilson was somewhat of a high-profile prospect in the late-2010s, and Wilson clocked in as a consensus top 100 prospect by most prospect publications. However, the Braves had optioned and recalled the right-hander nearly a dozen times from 2018 through 2021. At the time of the trade, Wilson had an unimpressive 5.90 ERA, 5.53 FIP, and 1.76 WHIP for the Braves. He had a 4.23 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP at Triple-A.

The other prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates received was Ricky DeVito. DeVito was Atlanta’s 8th round pick in 2019. DeVito looked quite good for Atlanta’s High-A affiliate, allowing just six earned runs with 27 strikeouts to oppose seven walks in 20.1 innings. He also allowed just two dingers and had a 66% ground ball rate. But DeVito was limited to just these 20.1 innings due to injuries. He displayed impressive stuff when he was healthy, but also some spotty command.

So how has this trade aged? Well, the Braves certainly did not get what they wanted from Rodríguez. Although he carried a 3.12 ERA in Atlanta with a 4.7% walk rate, his already mediocre strikeout rate shrunk even further to below 10% at 8.5%. However, the biggest issue was that Rodríguez gave up six home runs in just 26 innings.

There were warning signs that Rodríguez was pitching well above his head. He was among the worst in preventing hard contact, with opponents managing a 91.5 MPH exit velo and a 45.3% hard-hit rate against him. He was also a heavy flyball pitcher, with a 57.5% fly ball rate with the Pittsburgh Pirates, so it shouldn’t be a massive shock that he gave up so many home runs down the stretch. On top of that, Rodriguez lost what made him good. Rodriguez’s fastball went from 2600+ RPM to below 2400 RPM after MLB started to check for foreign substances. Speaking that he used his four-seamer over 85% of the time with slightly below average velocity, Rodríguez’s effectiveness was severely hindered by this. The Braves elected not to include the reliever on any of their postseason rosters during their World Series run.

DeVito had an up-and-down season with Greensboro this past year. There were some silver linings, like his 27.7% strikeout rate, .77 HR/9, and 54.7% ground ball rate. But he also allowed walks to 13.5% of the batters he faced and overall had a mediocre 5.40 ERA, 4.69 FIP, and 1.53 WHIP in 70 innings. DeVito has one of the best pitches in the Pirate system with his quick-fade splitter. He also has a well-above-average slider and decent velocity on his fastball. But the command certainly got in DeVito’s way more than once last year.

Things could have gone better for Wilson as well. Wilson worked to the tune of a 5.52 ERA, 5.06 FIP, and 1.42 WHIP in 115.2 innings. He struck out just 15.5% of the batters he faced and allowed home runs at a poor 1.56-per-9 rate. However, he did display excellent command with a 6.3% walk rate. Wilson’s numbers were slightly better in the second half, working to a 4.80 ERA, 5.05 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP, but it wasn’t anything to be proud of.

This trade has not worked out well for either team. Despite holding two more years of relatively inexpensive control over Rodríguez, the Braves opted to non-tender the relief pitcher. He was suspended 80 games by MLB during the 2021-2022 off-season for banned substances and then signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees but did not appear in the major leagues.

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But the Pittsburgh Pirates still have a chance to make it all work out in their favor and not be a complete wash. While neither DeVito nor Wilson had memorable 2022 seasons, both still have the talent to be major league pitchers for a decent Pirates squad. Wilson still has the chance to become a back-of-the-rotation arm, and DeVito has some very good raw stuff, even if his command isn’t up to par with the rest of his skill set.