Pittsburgh Pirates: Estimating The Contracts For Top International Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Pirates should be aggressive on the international free agent market, but what could some of the top targets make this off-season?

Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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Yariel Rodriguez

Yariel Rodriguez is looking to secure an MLB contract for the 2024 season. The right-hander has split his career between the Cuban League and Japan. Rodriguez did not pitch professionally in 2023 as he defected to the Dominican Republic. But Rodriguez is reportedly on the Pirate radar.

The last time Rodriguez pitched was in 2022 with the Chunichi Dragons. He pitched as a set-up man, working 54.2 innings and owning a 1.15 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 3.3 K:BB ratio. The most impressive part of Rodriguez's season was that he did not allow a single home run. He also had a quality 27.5% strikeout rate while rocking a decent 8.3% walk rate.

Rodriguez has mostly worked as a starting pitcher throughout his career, but the transition to the bullpen seemed to help him take a massive step forward, performance-wise. He was never bad as an SP, but his one season thus far as a reliever was far more dominant. The last time he started games semi-frequently was in 2021. 

During that year, Rodriguez tossed 94 innings, working to a 2.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 2.1 K:BB ratio. Rodriguez struck out exactly a quarter of the opponents he faced and had a 0.95 HR/9 rate, but greatly struggled with walks. He had a 12.1% walk rate, which was a trend when he was a starting pitcher. Of course, anyone would take those numbers from a starter, even if the walks were a tad high.

But in Rodriguez's training and tryouts, he's looked outstanding. He has a five-pitch mix, all of which have good characteristics. Rodriguez averages out around 95-97 MPH with plus spin. His slider is pushing 3000 RPM, while his curveball is another high-spin offering. But Rodriguez is able to kill the spin on both his splitter and change-up, averaging under 2000 RPM on both off-speed offerings.


Rodriguez is going into his age-27 season. It's going to be hard to estimate just how much Rodriguez will get signed for, as it's going to depend on how teams view him. If teams see him as a potential starting pitcher they can get on a multi-year deal, they'll sign him to one. If they see him as a good reliever who could lock down a high-leverage role, they'll pay him like one. In terms of years, he might look to ink a two or three year contract. But again, the AAV will depend on his future outlook.

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