Could the Baltimore Orioles Be Players in the Carlos Rodon Race?
By Josh Linn
Um, y’all, are the Baltimore Orioles about to do a thing? Like a significant free agent signing kind of thing? Like a signing Carlos Rodon kind of thing?
According to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, it seems much more realistic than one may think, as the Orioles are reportedly “touching base with” most if not all of the top free agent pitchers including the hard-throwing lefty Rodon, who is projected to receive a contract with an average annual value in the neighborhood of $30 million. Such a move would represent the most emphatic statement the club has arguably ever made in free agency.
Spending inordinate amounts of cash in the offseason has been antithetical to the Baltimore Orioles modus operandi for the better part of two decades with few exceptions.
Even when the O’s were last competitive, the club was supplemented with cost-efficient talent and money was only spent to keep the band together. Mike Elias has worked tirelessly to rebuild the club’s infrastructure and reshape the ethos by which decisions are guided, and if the O’s GM wants to make a definitive statement in free agency, there are few better options than Carlos Rodon.
The Baltimore Orioles seldom chase after marquee players in free agency but could shift the paradigm by pursuing SP Carlos Rodon.
Rodon, a physically imposing southpaw taken third overall by Chicago in the 2014 draft, has always radiated talent but struggled with command until finally harnessing his repertoire in 2021 and to no surprise, he’s been one of baseball’s best lefties ever since.
Carlos Rodon bet on himself and signed a one year deal with a Giants and man, what a bet that was. Rodon posted career highs in innings (178), fWAR (6.2), FIP (2.25), and strikeouts (237) and ensured himself a tremendous payday.
He makes light work of batters with electric stuff that generates frequent swings and misses.
Rodon has four pitches in his arsenal but relies on two specifically. The fastball is his best pitch that can hit 99 on occasion but generally rests in the mid 90’s. The four-seamer was the seventh most effective pitch in Major League Baseball according to Run Value, accumulating -22 Run Value (meaning opponents run expectancy decreased by 22 as a result of the fastballs Rodon threw).
A mid 80’s power slider accompanies the heater and functions co-equally with it as a put-away pitch, and it’s no surprise when you watch him throw it. Rodon’s slider has over two inches more vertical and horizontal movement than sliders of similar average velocity and release point
Rodon also butters his bread by inducing a heaping pile of fly balls that fall harmlessly into the gloves of his outfielders. It is often that fly ball pitchers struggle with a proneness to allow home runs, but he has no such issue. In fact, he’s better at home run prevention than most!
Average MLB Starting Pitcher HR/9: 1.16
Carlos Rodon HR/9: 0.61
How is that possible? First and foremost, Rodon throws his prodigious fastball nearly two-thirds of the time and keeps it elevated. This causes hitters to hit “underneath” the ball and produce routine fly balls and pop ups 39.3% of the time they made contact in 2022 – nearly ten percent more frequently than the average pitcher and perfectly suited for the new Camden Yards (granted he obviously wouldn’t pitch all his games there, but it’s not insignificant!).
His slider stays buried low and in to righties, down and away to lefties. The control that came with his career renaissance is integral to this process as well, certainly with the latter pitch, because nobody is hitting that slider if Rodon has command of it.
Is there fire where Jim Bowden is reporting smoke? I certainly hope so. Carlos Rodon would immediately become the Baltimore Orioles ace and would send a message to the fanbase that times have changed, and for the (so much) better.