In Carlos Rodón, the Yankees have signed MLB’s greatest left-handed pitcher

Following the mega-deals handed out to Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander, the final accessible bona fide ace of the free agent market has lastly come off the board as left-hander Carlos Rodón has agreed to a six-year, $162 million contract with the New York Yankees. 

Whereas Rodón could lack the {hardware} and prolonged observe document of excellence that deGrom and Verlander boast, he has a robust case for an additional title that ought to assist to clarify why he was in a position to command such a gargantuan contract: He is the very best southpaw starter in baseball. Put one other means: for those who wanted to win a recreation tomorrow, which lefty would you give the ball to?

For everything of the 2010s, this query wasn’t a lot of a debate: it was Clayton Kershaw, after which everybody else, even alongside the large careers of men like David Value, Cole Hamels and Chris Sale. Kershaw’s 59.3 fWAR from 2010-2019 was greatest not simply amongst lefties however all pitchers, and comfortably forward of the next-best lefty, Sale at 44.5. 

To be truthful, you could possibly nonetheless make a case for Kershaw whilst he enters his age-35 season. The stats will not be fairly as eye-popping as they have been throughout his prime, however loads of affordable followers would fortunately nonetheless give the longer term Corridor of Famer the ball on this hypothetical must-win scenario. 

Nevertheless, if we settle for that Kershaw’s reign as the sport’s greatest left-hander is certainly behind us, Rodón emerges as an awfully convincing inheritor to the throne. That’s to not say there aren’t loads of different gifted southpaws worthy of comparable consideration — they only didn’t get to be free brokers through the largest winter spending spree in MLB historical past. 

Atlanta’s Max Fried is coming off a second-place Cy Younger end in 2022. So far as pure run prevention goes over the previous couple of seasons, Julio Urias has few, if any left-handed friends. In case you catch them on the suitable day, guys like Robbie Ray, Blake Snell and Shane McClanahan are greater than able to trying like the very best lefty within the recreation. High quality Begin King Framber Valdez simply confirmed the nationwide viewers how superior he might be on the October stage. Nasty Nestor Cortes is certainly one of two lefty starters alongside Urias with a decrease ERA than Rodón over the past two seasons. Others like Sale and Hyun-Jin Ryu have additionally seemed elite within the current previous, however are getting back from important accidents and are tough to guage transferring ahead. 

The purpose is: There are some rattling good lefties on the market, and if we did this train a 12 months in the past, Rodón would have a a lot shakier declare. However with one other 12 months of excellence beneath his belt, his case has been bolstered considerably. Thirty-nine left-handed pitchers have thrown no less than 200 innings over the past two seasons. Right here’s the place Rodón ranks amongst them:

  • 10.5 bWAR (1st)
  • 11.1 fWAR (1st)
  • 2.67 ERA (third)
  • 156 ERA+ (2nd)
  • 0.998 WHIP (4th)
  • 2.42 FIP (1st)
  • 4.80 Ok/BB (2nd)
  • 12.2 Ok/9 (1st)
  • 33.9% Ok-rate (1st)
  • .567 OPS allowed (1st)
  • .196 BAA (1st)

Now it begins to look a little bit extra convincing. 

If there’s one knock on Rodón, it’s an iffy observe document of sturdiness. His pitch counts do are likely to climb early in begins, and in flip he hasn’t chewed up innings fairly to the identical diploma as a number of the different premier aces throughout the sport. At the same time as he’s coming off a career-high 31 begins and 175 innings pitched with no harm hassle, that brings his innings whole over the past two years to 310.2, which ranks forty second amongst all beginning pitchers and eleventh amongst lefties. 

Granted, the league as a complete has moved away in recent times from anticipating beginning pitchers to go anyplace close to as deep into video games as they used to, so it may well typically be tough to find out whether or not sure pitchers aren’t outfitted to go deep into video games or if their groups merely aren’t letting them. Regardless of the explanation in Rodón’s case, he’s averaged lower than six innings per begin over the previous two seasons, which doesn’t observe fairly as nicely with the normal understanding of a frontline starter. 

Nonetheless, on a per-inning foundation over the past two seasons, it’s arduous to argue in opposition to Rodón as probably the most statistically dominant left-hander within the recreation — which is why he’s celebrating the $162 million as a consequence of him.

Virtually fourteen years in the past precisely, CC Sabathia — definitive proprietor of the Finest Lefty crown earlier than Kershaw’s rise — signed a seven-year, $161 million take care of the Yankees, then the most important free-agent contract ever given to a pitcher. Since then, seven free-agent pitchers — together with Rodón — have signed for extra whole {dollars}. Right here’s the place Rodon’s deal slots in among the many largest beginning pitcher free-agent contracts since Sabathia, and in flip, in MLB historical past: 

  • Gerrit Cole getting into age-29 season (2020): 9 years/$324M ($36M AAV) with Yankees
  • Stephen Strasburg getting into age-3 season (2020): 7 years/$245M ($35M AAV) with Nationals
  • David Value getting into age-30 season (2016): 7 years/$217M ($31M AAV) with Pink Sox
  • Max Scherzer getting into age-30 season (2015): 7 years/$210M ($30M AAV) with Nationals
  • Carlos Rodón getting into age-30 season (2023): 7 years/$200M (AAV) with Yankees
  • Zack Greinke getting into age 32-season (2016): 6 years/$206.5M ($34.4M AAV) with Diamondbacks
  • Jacob deGrom getting into age-35 season (2023): 5 years/$185M ($37M) with Rangers
  • CC Sabathia getting into age-28 season (2009): 2009 – 7 years/$161M ($23M AAV) with New York Yankees
  • Jon Lester getting into age-30 season (2015): 2015 – 6 years/$155M ($25.8M AAV) with Chicago Cubs
  • Patrick Corbin getting into age-29 season (2019): 2019 – 6 years/$140M ($23.3M AAV) with Washington Nationals

In addition to the plain Sabathia parallels with regard to touchdown spot and contract measurement, Value’s deal seven years in the past additionally stands out as a robust comparability for Rodón’s new deal. Whereas they each in the end arrived at important paydays getting into their age-30 seasons, Value and Rodón took very completely different journeys to get there, albeit ones that began in an analogous place: dominating faculty baseball. In Value’s case, it was three years of excellence at Vanderbilt (3.22 ERA in 313 IP with 441 strikeouts) that led to him being chosen No. 1 general within the 2007 draft by Tampa Bay. 

Seven years later, Rodón was chosen third general by the White Sox within the 2014 draft after three large seasons at North Carolina State (2.24 ERA in 345.2 IP with 436 strikeouts). Each reached the majors the 12 months after being drafted, however their paths diverged shortly from there. Value instantly established himself as top-of-the-line lefties within the recreation and by no means had any journeys to the IL, profitable the AL Cy Younger Award in his fifth season and making 5 All-Star video games earlier than reaching free company. Rodón, however, struggled to seek out consistency in his first few seasons after which battled varied accidents — his fifth season featured Tommy John surgical procedure quite than any high-profile awards. It wasn’t till after he returned from surgical procedure that Rodón rediscovered his ace kind from his faculty days. 

Fortuitously, with free company, timing is all the things, as Rodón received wholesome and peaked on the excellent time getting into the open market. He now begins the subsequent chapter of his profession as the most recent outstanding Yankees addition of their decided pursuit for a twenty eighth World Sequence championship. And like with Sabathia 14 years in the past, the Yankees can really feel that rather more assured of their dedication figuring out they could simply have the very best lefty within the recreation.

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Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He has coated baseball for his total grownup life, most notably for MLB.com, DAZN and The Ringer. He is a Mariners fan residing within the Japanese Time Zone, which implies he loves a superb 10 p.m. first pitch. You’ll be able to observe him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.


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