Carlos Rodon and the Status Quo Are Back

Image Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After months of White Sox fans like me clamoring for the team to add starting pitching depth, they have answered the bell, bringing back familiar face Carlos Rodon on a one year, $3MM deal.  Rodon, the 3rd overall pick of the 2014 draft, and the White Sox had seemingly reached a natural parting point about two months ago when Rodon was non-tendered.

However, I guess we all should have known better as the White Sox never tend to let their own go gently into the good night of free agency.  In an offseason full of White Sox reunions, it only made sense that Rodon was on the invite list.

Before getting too caught up in the hilariously uninspiring and predictably nature of Rodon and the White Sox’s reunion, I’ll start with saying this – I don’t hate the move.  Signing anyone that is capable of pitching at the major league level for $3MM is fine, and adds depth to a rotation that was relatively thin on it.

Despite the top trio of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and the newly acquired Lance Lynn, the Sox are dangerously thin on the back end of the rotation.  While they have plenty of high potential arms, relying on Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech to be anchors of a rotation in the thick of a team in a pennant race, with basically no one behind them, was a scary proposition.

Nothing against those guys, but Lopez and Cease struggled last year and Kopech hasn’t pitched in three years.  I’m hoping they all play to their potential this year, but blind hope isn’t something this franchise can afford to rely on.

The fact is, the White Sox needed more starting pitching.  Rodon fits that billing, simple as that.  In a vacuum, that makes sense.  The Sox didn’t have the excess prospect capital to go get a Joe Musgrove type in a trade, so free agency was the answer.  Likewise, barring a change of heart by Jerry Reinsdorf, Trevor Bauer isn’t coming to Chicago.

Even still, I would’ve preferred someone with more reliability like Jake Odorizzi, or Jose Quintana if the Sox were dead-set on the reunion angle.  Regardless, Rodon is a fine option, IF he is to be here as a depth piece.

I do somewhat feel the anger against Rodon is in part to his late season meltdowns in the bullpen in Cleveland and Oakland in the playoffs, which were two incredibly deflating moments in the White Sox resurgent 2020 season.  In Cleveland, the air was taken from the sails and left the team limping into the playoffs, and Rodon’s appearance in Game 3 in Oakland was about as close to a dagger on the season as anything outside of Garrett Crochet’s forearm.

However, coming from the bullpen as a high leverage arm was a role he wasn’t really meant to be playing, and one he rushed back to fill.  The man wanted to contribute to a playoff team in anyway possible, and I won’t necessarily fault him for his manager putting him into situation he was unfamiliar with and was highly likely to struggle with.  The execution needs to be there, yes, but those two outings shouldn’t really paint what Rodon is moving forward.

The biggest thing about Rodon that will determine how well this reunion works is health.  When healthy, Rodon has been a decent-to-better option in the rotation.  He may have never lived up to that 3rd pick billing, but he’s at least performed at a level necessary for a back of the rotation/depth option.

Carlos Rodon Career Stats, via FanGraphs

Now that he’s penciled in as a back of the rotation option, being 28 is more a plus, with room to grow into some more of that potential.

The issue is, we haven’t seen Rodon start more than 20 games since 2016.  Whether it was Tommy John in 2019, shoulder surgery in 2017, or the back issues last year, injuries have followed Rodon for most of his career.  If those injury woes continue, then this signing makes little sense – you can’t be a depth option if you aren’t available to pitch every 5th day when needed.

Where that leaves Rodon in 2021 is the big question, but assuming he can be available as a 4-5 in the rotation on Opening Day and a depth option as the season continues (a big if given the history), then this will be fine.  Perhaps no better than fine, but fine nonetheless.

I’ll at least try to take the optimistic route with Steve Stone.   Maybe Ethan Katz can unlock something missing in Rodon, beyond good health.

Overall, what I’m trying to say is that this move, in a vacuum, is fine.  Much like the Adam Eaton signing, the move itself can’t really hurt the White Sox, if utilized correctly.  Good teams need pitching depth, and Rodon is that.

The bigger issue, on the less “drinking the Kool-Aid” side of the coin, is that if Rodon is the only depth addition to the rotation, then the Sox need to say about 15 Hail Marys a day for health across the board.  While the White Sox rotation, and roster overall for that matter, is near the top of the American League in Opening Day talent, if really any key players are lost to injury, they’re basically treading water.  In most cases, the reinforcements are not close behind.

So I’ll hope that there’s more to come as far as depth additions for the White Sox.  If not, then hopefully the training staff is the best in the league and can prevent catastrophe.  For a team trying to make their first serious run at a title in over a decade, that’s an extremely risky gamble.

Written by Rex Hime