The Yankees may have made a $162 million mistake

mlb: arizona diamondbacks at new york yankees, carlos rodon
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into what promises to be an eventful off-season, the New York Yankees might be planning some significant shifts. The whispers around town hint at General Manager Brian Cashman’s interest in Yoshinobu Yamamoto as a coveted free agent. However, the hefty price tag attached to Yamamoto and the previous year’s less-than-stellar Carlos Rodon acquisition might make owner Hal Steinbrenner think twice.

Last off-season, the Yankees went big, signing Rodon to a whopping six-year, $162 million deal. He was fresh off two stellar seasons, most recently recording a 2.88 ERA and averaging 12 strikeouts per nine in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants. Clocking in a career-best 178 innings, expectations were sky-high. Unfortunately, Rodon’s inaugural year in pinstripes has been far from the anticipated dream run.

“I’m going to get away, man,” Rodón said to NJ.com’s Randy Miller. “You won’t find me. I’ll be gone.”

A Closer Look at Rodon’s Slump

Having pitched just 64.1 innings, Rodon’s stats tell a tale of struggle: a 6.85 ERA, 5.79 FIP, 8.95 strikeouts per nine, 3.92 BB/9, a 60.5% left on-base rate, and a 27.1% ground ball rate. Most concerning is his 2.10 HR/9 rate, the highest of his career.

Though his velocity remains consistent with the previous season, Rodon’s pitch placement has been off-mark. Opponents are teeing off on his four-seam fastball, batting .294, and his curveball hasn’t fared much better at .375. Historically, Rodon’s strength has been his fastball/slider combo. This season, however, both pitches have faltered.

Digging deeper, his fastball has seen a 7% dip in whiff percentage and an equal drop in putaway rate from the previous year. September, in particular, has been tough on Rodon. Boasting an 8.10 ERA, he’s allowed 24 earned runs in just 26.2 innings. His recent outing against the Kansas City Royals, where he surrendered six hits and eight earned runs (including a home run) without making it past the first inning, exemplifies his struggles. Manager Aaron Boone’s decision to pull him out early saw a visibly frustrated Rodon exiting the field without acknowledging pitching coach Matt Blake.

Challenges Ahead for the Yankees

Rodon’s evident anguish isn’t surprising given the circumstances. But for the Yankees, the larger concern is their significant investment yielding desired returns. Over the past few seasons, some of Cashman’s free-agent acquisitions haven’t hit the mark, straining the Yankees’ budget without the expected performance output.

Although this season has seen Rodon grappling with multiple injuries — a left forearm strain, recurring back issues, and a hamstring injury — there’s hope for a turnaround. He’s signaled a desire for a brief sabbatical post-season to rejuvenate. As 2024 approaches, the Yankees will undoubtedly be expecting more from Rodon, possibly complemented by some fresh faces in the rotation.

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