Carlos Rodón needs to be available to represent rotation depth

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22: Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning of an exhibition baseball game at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 22, 2020 in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

Because the White Sox non-tendered Carlos Rodón in November before bringing him back into the organization on Saturday, this is the first time he can officially be called outside help.

However, this would be far from the first time he’d be regarded as an offseason or in-season addition for the White Sox, rather than a holdover.

Here’s NBC Sports Chicago discussing Rodón’s possibilities after Tommy John surgery during the original spring training of 2020:

Rodón can throw pretty darn hard, something that intrigues those wanting to stick him in the ‘pen and call on him to get a few batters out rather than soldier through six or seven innings. But White Sox fans are plenty familiar with what he can be when he’s healthy and at his best, the kind of starter who can mow down opposing lineups.

Either role would be a valuable midseason addition for a team in the playoff hunt. You’d have to figure that this is a bridge the White Sox will cross when they come to it, meaning that Rodon will likely be deployed in whatever area he’s needed.

Here’s Rick Hahn talking about heightened expectations for 2019 after Rodón threw 120 innings post-shoulder surgery the year before:

“So it was always projected that it was going to be let’s get him back out there, let’s get him performing regularly and ideally have no issues which we were fortunate to do. Now the next full year is the year where you hope to see that Carlos Rodón fulfilling that potential he has.”

Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times as Rodón returned from biceps bursitis in 2017:

The trade deadline is a month away, but the White Sox might get their best acquisition this week. That is when coveted left-hander Carlos Rodon, beset by injuries in spring, is expected to return to the rotation.

Yet Rodón has struggled to deliver meaningful results no matter the timetable. He came the closest in 2018, when he posted a 3.22 ERA over 18 starts and 117 innings before two end-of-season disasters blew up his ERA by nearly a full run to close it out. Even then, his walk-to-strikeout numbers (55 to 90 over 120⅔ innings) only looked good in comparison to his walk-and-HBP-to-strikeout numbers (67 to 90). Likewise, an encouraging start to his 2019 ended after a month due to Tommy John surgery, and his attempt to return in 2020 stalled after two abbreviated starts.

Now he’s back on a $3 million deal, and James Fegan says “multiple sources indicate Rodón is being brought back for rotation depth.” That’s fine on its face, because the White Sox’s credible pitching depth was previously:

  • Reynaldo López as the fifth starter.
  • Michael Kopech as the sixth starter
  • I dunno, Bernardo Flores Jr.?

In a season where the top four pitchers are guaranteed to make 30 starts, there’d be no harm having Rodón in the mix for the fifth spot. But with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel being acquainted with the injured list over the last couple years, López having a shoulder issue and stuff problems before and after, and Kopech going two years without pitching, additional depth is required. And it’s hard to argue that Rodón is that depth, because he has seldom been at full capacity when it would actually matter.

One could make the case that the Sox could use the 50-60 innings he might provide. Let’s say the White Sox want 900 innings from their starters. If you could draw it up like this …

  • Lance Lynn: 200
  • Lucas Giolito: 180
  • Dallas Keuchel: 170
  • Dylan Cease: 160
  • Michael Kopech: 90
  • Reynaldo López: 50
  • Carlos Rodón: 50

… that’d be fine. The problem is that Rodón’s not a great bet to be available to pitch those open innings. You can’t store him in a glass case to break open during an emergency, because Rodón’s condition is usually the emergency. And based on his comments before the 2020 season, the Hector Santiago life is not for him.

“In my heart, I think I’m a starter,” Rodón said. “I’m not a bullpen arm. Yeah, I could throw 100 mph, but I’m not a bullpen arm. I know I can be a starter. I’ve shown it in the past. Yes, I haven’t been as durable as I can be, but people have seen me eat eight, nine innings. […]

“You have to look at the stress. You need to be more durable as a reliever. You are throwing 75 appearances. You are throwing back-to-back days. Those guys get up and they throw, and those throws aren’t even accounted for. Those are still stress, though. They are still throwing 95 mph before they go in the game. Then you tell them to sit down and then ‘hey, let’s get back up and throw again.’”

Some might read those comments as arrogant, but I read them as aware (and maybe a little arrogant). Relief work is not always the answer for an injury-prone pitcher. Rodón hasn’t looked comfortable coming out of the bullpen in the handful of opportunities we’ve seen, as he’s issued six walks and an HBP over 8⅓ innings. This wasn’t the first winter where I suggested a non-tender for Rodón, because we’d experienced the same lifecycle with the relief-only Nate Jones. Injuries tend to beget injuries.

Familiarity may breed contempt with Rodón, who only made seven starts for the White Sox in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and might be lucky to make seven appearances for the White Sox in 2020 due to his health luck and the White Sox’ struggles with that particular procedure. I’m guessing the White Sox will tender him a contract and treat it as if they’re spending that money on a trade deadline acquisition, but I can see a Nate Jones-like situation occurring where he never meets even lowered expectations for availability. Parting ways with Rodón would definitely signal a new level of determination.

Sure enough, Rodón only made five appearances last year. The pandemic played a part, but it didn’t act alone.

The good news is that Rodón’s velocity returned to 96 mph after he returned for shoulder soreness, even if it failed to reflect rejuvenated stuff. Adding up his three appearances against the Indians (bad), Cubs (good) and A’s (bad), Rodón threw 60 pitches and racked up two (2) swinging strikes.

The optimist says that a Rodón with power at least has the foundation to rediscover an arsenal nearer to its peak, and the strange 2020 season was not conducive to an oft-injured pitcher attempting to manage layers of rehab. The pessimist says that any old season hasn’t been conducive to Rodón’s durability, so what would be different about this one?

Maybe Tony La Russa and Ethan Katz. At the end of his tenure, Rick Renteria’s management of Rodón resembled a sarcastic “Thanks For The Upgrade” card to the front office. As I mentioned in the breaking news post, I assumed Rodón was gone because Renteria was staying, and it looks like the joke’s on me. We still have the baggage, but the guys now overseeing his season don’t. There could be some benefit to having two sets of fresh eyes.

But I also wouldn’t want to saddle Rodón’s new bosses with the expectation of solving a problem that could be impossible. Resources are limited, be they dollars or attention, and the burden of proof is on corpus Carlos to show that it’s worth both. At this point, it’d bold to even use a pencil to write Rodón’s name in any plans. Sure, La Russa’s former subjects have praised his ability to put his players in a position to succeed, but Rick Hahn’s not supposed to take that as a challenge.

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of blank expectations, I mentioned in my post about the imaginary SoxFest that I’d hold off on putting an innings number on Kopech until he was fully present and active, mostly because he’s lived three lives’ worth over the last three years. Case in point: this Google News alert I received on my phone Saturday night:

The story doesn’t tell you anything you don’t know from a White Sox news point of view, but this phrasing struck me:

Michael did not comment on Vanessa’s pregnancy and has retreated from public life for much of the year. He also opted out of the 2020 MLB season, however, he is expected to return to the Chicago White Sox this year.

To baseball outlets, Kopech’s opting out of the 2020 season is a standalone baseball decision, making him little different from David Price and Ryan Zimmerman. To gossip mags, it’s treated as a secondary item of a greater escape from the public eye. His life doesn’t have a whole lot of comps at the moment, much less his career.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

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Willardmarshall

Shoulder, biceps, Tommy John — how related are these afflictions? “Injury-prone” covers such a wide range….

jhomeslice

I’m in the physical therapy niche, and know that body injuries are often related on some level. You hurt one thing, you develop compensation patterns, it leads to other things. Arm and shoulder stuff are almost always related. Most people have stuff like this going on even without being athletes, sooner or later. It is very difficult for someone injury prone to get out of it, because they often have stuff going on in other areas of the body that they are unaware of, related to the injury. A shoulder injury can stem from ankle and hip issues for example, and most of the rehab is done on the shoulder, ignoring/overlooking/misunderstanding the true root cause and treating the body as a whole.

But what can’t be ignored is that he hasn’t made more than 20 starts since 2016. That’s a long time. How likely is that to change, realistically? He hasn’t even been that good when healthy during that time either, his ERA rising every year. Part of that is likely that his body hasn’t been right. Time alone doesn’t necessarily fix that, in his case he probably would have been healthier the past couple years if he was going to be in 2021. I feel for the guy, but the odds just don’t support him being in a position to do much. And based on his performance last year, I don’t see how they chose him in a year they are supposed to be serious about World Series aspirations, when they could have had Quintana for only 5M more. Eaton is not likely to be healthy for the same reason, which is why teams that want to win a World Series don’t sign players who have averaged half a season or less the past several years, hoping for health and performance miracles.

Last edited 3 years ago by jhomeslice
Trooper Galactus

THANK YOU.

Denman

I’m not in “the physical therapy” niche, but it seems to me that most, if not all veteran professional athletes have a history that includes serious injury of some sort. Certainly most of the other free agents the Sox might have signed for rotation depth (Kluber, Wood, Richards, Paxton, etc.) would have come with their own injury concerns. One might presume that the Sox are fully informed on the nature of Rodon’s injuries and the nature and extent of his rehab. They’re certainly in a better position than any other club to assess the likelihood of his future success ( unless they’re blinded by loyalty to an “old friend”).

Trooper Galactus

Look at the rhetoric the front office has given concerning Rodon over the last few years compared to what he’s provided and tell me how confident you are about their belief that Rodon represents good depth.

jhomeslice

Couldn’t have said it better. He has been disabled for the majority of 3 of the last 4 seasons. It is foolish to ignore that. And believe me I hope I’m wrong… would love to see Rodon healthy and do well, for his sake. It just isn’t bloody likely.

jhomeslice

There is a difference between “injury concern” and “injury prone”. Most athletes have gotten hurt at one time or another, but it is another thing to get hurt nearly every year, and average 60 innings over 4 years when you are a major league starting pitcher. He has spent significant time on the DL for 4 straight years. I mean come on, we have been hearing every year since 2016 that he should be healthy and he never is. It’s 2021. Everybody on here would be happy to see him healthy and do well. Nobody is God and can say it is impossible, it just very obvious that it isn’t likely.

HallofFrank

I agree with you that there’s plenty of reason for pessimism that he’ll give the Sox 20 starts. If there weren’t, he would have signed for a lot more than $3m.

But it’s simply not true that he “hasn’t even been that good when healthy during that time.” 2019 was his best season “when healthy”: 3.62 FIP, 11.94 K/9, 1.04 HR/9. That is good production, even if he wasn’t healthy long.

I’m not sure why Sox fans are all of a sudden infatuated with ERA when discussing Rodón. If we evaluated Dylan Cease the same way they evaluated Rodón’s numbers, we’d all be thrilled with his 2020 and have him comfortably penciled into the #4 spot.

HallofFrank

I wonder if it doesn’t make sense to stretch Crochet out this season. With Hendriks, the bullpen is deep already. If the plan is use Crochet at SP long-term and SP depth is the greater area of need, why not move him now? Start him in AAA and stretch him out.

I wouldn’t expect much from him, but it seems just as reasonable to expect a reliable 3-5 IP as a starter (by June or so) than to expect him to be a reliable back of the bullpen arm. I’m not sold on this myself, but it makes some sense if the Sox aren’t going to spend big on another SP.

Oddvark

I think Crochet starts the season at AAA. As of right now, barring injuries or any more signings (the possibilities of which seem limited to a veteran back-up catcher and/or a mid-level DH) my expected 26-man Opening Day roster looks like this:

C: Grandal
1B: Abreu
2B: Madrigal (assuming he’s recovered by then)
SS: Anderson
3B: Moncada
LF: Jimenez
CF: Robert
RF: Eaton
DH: Mercedes
C2: Collins
IF: Mendick
OF: Engel
UT: Garcia

SP1: Giolito
SP2: Lynn
SP3: Keuchel
SP4: Cease
SP5: Rodon (or Lopez)
CL: Hendriks
SU1: Bummer
SU2: Marshall
RP1: Heuer
RP2: Fry
RP3: Foster
RP4: Cordero
LR: Lopez (or Rodon)

AAA: Vaughn, Kopech, Crochet

As Cirensica

I don’t think Mendick will be in. How many options does he have?

Oddvark

Mendick has 3 options remaining.

But he did pretty good in 2020 (even being nominated for a Gold Glove), and the Sox don’t have currently any other middle infielders on the 40-man roster, with corner infield/DH types Sheets and Burger being the only other infielder options on the 40-man.

Unless they are prepared to open the season with Leury as the only middle-infield backup piece, I think Mendick makes the opening day roster.

It’s possible that Tim Beckham (or someone else aquired between now and then) impresses during Spring Training and replaces Mendick, but I’m betting on Mendick for now.

metasox

I know many fans want to see Mercedes, but have the Sox said or done much that would indicate he is high on the list?

Travis Shaw would be an interesting cheap pickup. Could take Madrigal’s spot for a while if he opens on the injured list

Oddvark

My expected roster is based on the players the Sox have right now, ignoring the possibility of additional acquisitions. Of the players they have, the realistic DH options are:

(1) moving Eloy to DH (as Roster Resource is prediciting), which I think is unlikely and which I haven’t heard anyone from the Sox organization actually suggest;

(2) Andrew Vaughn, who I think will eventually be brought up and get DH at-bats, but who I expect to start at AAA, at least long enough for the Sox to maintain control for the extra year;

(3) One of the other “bats” on the 40-man — Sheets, Adolfo, Burger, or Mercedes. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about any of them contributing in 2021, but IMO there is the least reason to keep Mercedes in the minors (the others could use more development; at 28-years-old Mercedes is who is) and he was crushing the ball in 2019 and even 2020 Spring Training.

During the Adam Eaton press conference, Rick Hahn did say:

We do have some internal options. I’d mentioned the right handed hitter — Andrew Vaughn is someone we expect to break in and perhaps produce at some point over the course of his career if not immediately [] at an impressive level. So we want to make sure Andrew gets an opportunity at some point….

… if there was a normal season last year and Andrew had started probably in AA, worked his way to AAA, there’s a chance he would have contributed at some point over the course of last season, much less gone into the ’21 season as a perhaps sure bet to contribute. That’s going to be a challenge for all of us to evaluate….

And when I mention Andrew, obviously he’s probably the highest profile guy, but you know Zach Collins potentially provides left-handed balance. You know Yemin Mercedes is someone who certainly brings a lot of excitement to the batter’s box and can contribute in multiple ways as well.

So there are some internal options. We’ll just have to wait and see not only what if anything we add over the coming months leading up to Spring Training, but also how these guys look once we all get together in Glendale.

I read that as suggesting that Vaughn is likely to contribute “at some point” but probably not on Opening Day and that they are at least thinking about Mercedes bringing “excitement to the batter’s box” which he could do as a DH.

Hahn also mentioned Mercedes (and Collins and Zavala) in the Lance Lynn press conference, saying:

… we needed improvement in our production out of right field and DH. I believe I also alluded to the fact that we may have some internal answers for some of those…. Andrew Vaughn [] we project to be a pretty good offensive player here in the not too distant future and therefore is a consideration when we try to figure out how this all fits together…

… [speaking of catchers] we really do like the three options we have in house…. They are different animals obviously you know in terms of the profiles of what they bring to the position. Collins, Mercedes, and Zavala.

Not a ton to glean there, but again Mercedes is mentioned a potential contributor, along with Andrew Vaughn. But no mention of Adolfo, Sheets, or Burger. So assuming Eloy stays at LF and no more acquistions are made, it sounds to me like Mercedes has a legitimate shot at being the Opening Day DH.

jhomeslice

To ignore Mercedes would be absolutely moronic. He should be the front runner for the DH spot. I love Vaughn’s future but he has not played an inning above A ball. Mercedes killed it, better than Luis Robert, in AAA in 2019. If Vaughn posted his numbers at AAA, everyone would be talking about him as if he might be the next Pujols. 17 homers, 60+ rbis in like 53 games. .310 vs both righties and lefties, meaning he can hit both and would help their pitiful record vs right handed starters. Spectacular numbers. And he costs nothing. You can only hope they give him a chance, but he got no at bats in 2020 even while he was the best DH in the organization. He reminds me of Pablo Sandoval, totally.

You can only hope that some intelligence goes into their decisions this year. I swear, half the posters on this site could do a better job running this team, at least in terms of some decisions.

texag10

If they are as high on Mercedes as they claim to be, he would have gotten ABs in September 2019 and replaced EE in the lineup last season.

As Cirensica

It has been very confusing the way they managed Yermin thus far

jhomeslice

I don’t claim they are high on Mercedes. They are not, or he would have gotten AB’s like you said. They have ignored him, not recognizing his great AAA numbers for some reason, and seem like they may wind up wasting his talent rather than give him a chance. As I said, if Vaughn had those numbers, people would be massively excited. Those numbers at the highest minor league level make it highly likely that Yermin would hit big league pitching quite well. I am sure he will hit well for some team.

It reminds me of the end scene of Dumb and Dumber when those 2 guys got stopped by the bus of hot bikini clad women looking for 2 oil boys, and they told them that there were a couple guys in the next town!

texag10

Literal quote from Hahn: You know Yemin Mercedes is someone who certainly brings a lot of excitement to the batter’s box and can contribute in multiple ways as well.

jhomeslice

I hope that means he will play, hopefully as their starting DH opening day!

dongutteridge

Suddenly, I’m not as excited for this season as I was 2 weeks ago.

Oddvark

As long as you are still excited, that’s cool. There are justifiable reasons to be disappointed that the team has not made bigger moves to improve RF, DH, SP depth, and back-up catcher, so I can understand being less excited.

But if you are not excited about this young, talented, exuberant team, I feel sad for you.

oldtimer

I also am really looking forward to the season. I have a good feeling about this club. Don’t why – just do. Players & culture I guess. Re your roster I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of Luis Gonzales or Blake Rutherford replace Mercedes if they have a strong spring. Left handed bat and they can play all the OF spots although Blake might be a bit of a stretch in CF. Again, just thinking out loud.

Trooper Galactus

If you are optimistic about the possibility of Gonzales or Rutherford being on the Opening Day roster then you are a far more satisfied fan than I.

Oddvark

Spring Training could be interesting. As you suggest, there could be a legit competition for opening day DH. Barring any acquisitions, I suspect that the front runners would be Vaughn (most talent/upside), Mercedes (probably his last shot to break in to the majors given his age and Vaughn’s expected rise by next season), and Adolfo (out of options). I also have a better feeling about Sheets as a hitter than Gonzales or Rutherford, also lefty, though Sheets does not provide OF depth. But anything’s possible.

There should also be competition for the 5th starter role primarily between Lopez, Rodon, and Kopech, with Steiver, Lambert, and Flores (maybe Vargas) getting some looks.

I also still expect the Sox to sign at least one veteran catcher on a minor league deal who will be invited to camp to compete with Collins for the back-up catcher spot. Zavala will be there to, but I don’t think he has much of a shot.

And maybe Mendick and Tim Beckham will be competing for a back-up infielder spot (or to cover for Madrigal if he is not fully recovered from his surgery).

Other than that, just looking forward to seeing the boys back on the field and praying that no one gets hurt.

Trooper Galactus

If reports are to believed, Sheets could potentially provide bad outfield depth too.

texag10

Adam Dunn v0.5!

Trooper Galactus

Sheets’s offensive profile is nothing like Dunn’s. Also, Dunn actually was pretty speedy when he was in his early-mid 20s.

asinwreck

His life doesn’t have a whole lot of comps at the moment, much less his career.

If they lived in the social media age, I wonder how our perceptions of Joe DiMaggio and Ralph Kiner would be different. (I realize Kiner only died seven years ago, but his Burt Reynolds-like serial celebrity dating happened at midcentury.) They seem closer to Kopech’s past year than any current players’ lives do. Maybe Jay Cutler in football?

Last edited 3 years ago by asinwreck
asinwreck

If you’re looking for something to wager on, I’d take the over on Emilio Vargas having 2 MLB starts in 2021.

Last edited 3 years ago by asinwreck
Oddvark

Good call, Jim!

asinwreck

Indeed! Let’s see if someone else takes a chance on him or if he winds up in Charlotte.

As Cirensica

You can’t store him in a glass case to break open during an emergency, because Rodón’s condition is usually the emergency.

Except that Rodon is the glass case and the pitcher altogether. But in all seriousness, if Rodon (big if) is healthy, he is a luxury depth. For 3 million, and healthy, Rodon would be 2nd or 3rd starter in many teams.

MrStealYoBase

How many of those teams would give themselves the title “world series contender”?

seven11

The contenders already have a quality 2nd and 3rd. Like we do.

denny

We go in circles trying to declare who will be the starting pitchers after the top 3. It’s only January and IMO, we’re going to have to see how actual performances go in spring training and in the early real season. All we know is that there’s a gaggle of candidates – Cease, Lopez, Kopech, Rodon, Stiever, Crochet, Vargas, Lambert, et al – and though they can be tiered, any of them may emerge (hopefully). And that doesn’t even consider that an acquisition can still be made to throw another name into the hat. I’m excited that these arms are legit and maybe the new coaching staff can unlock whatever they need to bring 2 or 3 of these guys to the next level.

As Cirensica

I think Cease is a fixture in the rotation whether 4th or 5th starter. The 5th is up for grabs with Rey-Lo with the inner track.

dongutteridge

If this is all the starting pitching the Sox are gonna get then the season is gonna hinge on the big 3 staying healthy the entire season AND Cease being much improved.

Last edited 3 years ago by dongutteridge
MrStealYoBase

Besides the usual attrition sure to injury or ineffectiveness, there’s a few pandemic related issues at play that could really cause the need for more depth:

1. Nobody threw more than 84 innings last year.

2. The possibility of additional double-headers.

The Padres approach to their rotation may seem crazy at first, but it might be the only rational approach to try to compete this year.

Last edited 3 years ago by MrStealYoBase
metasox

I haven’t heard it discussed, but I have been wondering what effect, if any, last season’s light workload will have

metasox

I expect the Sox would be fortunate to get that many innings out of the guys ahead of Rodon on that list. If they did, they could cobble together 50 from someone other than Rodon. I just see them needing more than 50.

tommytwonines

“In my heart, I think I’m a starter”

Translation:

“In my bank account, I’d like there to be more money.”

Trooper Galactus

Crazy thing is, if he’d reinvented himself as even a moderately effective or reliable reliever by now, he’d be making more than $3 million. Regardless, I’ll assume if he says it’s not for him, then it’s not for him. Like Jim, I’m not aware if that’s self-awareness or stubbornness, or some combination of both.

LamarJohnson

Now that we have Carlos and a new coaching staff, what do you think of the odds that we could use the 5th starter spot as an opener? Thinking Rodon/Lopez and Rodon/Crochet as interesting combos to see if Rodon can keep it together while seeing what else we’ve got for starter material. This seems like a fresh start for the strategy we’ve been hoping for the past few years.

asinwreck

The call for a delay does not surprise me, though the offer of full pay for 154 games almost sounds like a good-faith effort from the owners.

Trooper Galactus

Heard that on my way into work. Assuming there’s no poison pill in the fine print, that’s a pretty good deal for the players. 162 game pay for 154 games and more postseason money to be had; sounds like ownership really wants that revenue flowing again without interruption.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Also includes DH in both leagues. Our guy Bob Nightengale expects the union to reject it, though.

Amar

It includes expanded postseason, which is the gamechanger, so no.

hitlesswonder

Between Eaton and Rodon it feels like the Sox have lit 11 million dollars on fire without providing any positive impact for the team. Arguably it’s made the team worse as Eaton is going get tons of at bats and looking at his 2020 numbers it seems like engel and garcia would provide better production.

jhomeslice

Exactly.

Trooper Galactus

If Rodon had not been a White Sox player all these years, we’d be asking why the team was willing to pay $3 million for a guy who hasn’t even thrown 50 innings in the last two seasons combined when much more reliable (and arguably better) options were available for a few million more.

texag10

I don’t hate the fact that either player is currently on the White Sox. I hate the fact that they claim to have limited resources and this is the best they could do. If we had Eaton/Rodon on this team for a combined 6M, I don’t think there’d be near as much gnashing of teeth.

funkerdan

I really want him to do well and hope this time isn’t a bust… I think I’ve seen him pitch 6 times out of 8 games I saw after I moved to PGH. Remember that game he threw against the Pirates? Yeah, I was there. That sums up every start I saw live. absolutely horrible. give me a beer, I’m going to need my share to get through his pitching.