Yankees among teams interested in Cuban right-hander

Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Semifinal
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As the Yankees look to improve their pitching staff, they’ve remained interested in RHP Yariel Rodriguez, according to Francys Romero of MLB.com, as they’re among a group of teams, including the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Astros, bidding for his services. While it’s expected that he won’t sign until after the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes, the right-hander has a strong pitch mix that teams have shown interest in, and while he’s more of a multi-inning reliever than a starter at this point, he could help the Yankees construct the ‘super bullpen’ that was reported earlier this week.

Rodriguez, who defected from Cuba and only participated in the World Baseball Classic this past season, had an impressive career in the NPB, with his most recent season in 2022 resulting in a 1.15 ERA and 2.06 FIP across 54.2 IP.

Yankees Could Acquire Interesting Multi-Inning Weapon

MLB: General Manager's Meetings
Nov 7, 2023; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks to the media during the MLB General Manager’s Meetings at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Cashman was adamant about acquiring multiple pitchers this winter, and reports in recent weeks have suggested that the team will look to add more pitching even if they land Yoshinobu Yamamoto. While the price tag for Rodriguez has been floated to exceed over $10 million a year, he may be a multi-inning weapon for teams that sign him, as he’s been a starter in years past and has shown the ability to pitch past the fifth inning. His command was worse as a starter, but the data available to players at the Major League level could help Rodriguez refine his arsenal.

He throws a mid-90s fastball that he can manipulate to either cut or run, and that manipulation of shape makes for a pitch that’s hard to barrel up. His slider is an excellent pitch, with a 127.6 Stuff+ in the World Baseball Classic, and the Yankees could plug and play Rodriguez wherever he’s needed in their pitching staff. Perhaps he could open games, giving the Yankees three innings to open a game and handing it off to the bullpen, but at the same time, he could also get three big outs late in a game when need be.

One of the Yankees’ biggest concerns is that they have a lot of injury-prone arms, and while the team is projected to prevent runs at an above-league-average rate, there’s a lot of variance in the pitching staff. It’s something that the Yankees are more than aware of, especially because they’re interested in acquiring multiple pitchers in multiple roles. Rodriguez has the velocity and the stuff to be a high-level reliever, and the Yankees’ interest in him would signify that they’ve identified something in his pitch mix that they like a lot.

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His unique fastball characteristics would make it a pitch that stands out, and given the fact that he can change arm slots, the Yankees could take a flyer on a pitcher who has a unique profile. The risk they take is that they’d acquire a pitcher with zero experience at the Major League level, and while it’s unclear what the bidding for Rodriguez will look like, the Yankees probably wouldn’t shell out an incredible amount of money to land him. Teams are going to have a fair concern regarding how well he’ll translate, given the different baseballs used by the MLB compared to the NPB.

With all of that said, there’s still a lot to like in his profile, and if the Yankees land Yariel Rodriguez, they could get a pitcher who can be a spot starter and multi-inning reliever going forward. He is entering his age-27 season next year, so he’s still pretty young, and all it would take is money to secure him, as there’s no Qualifying Offer or posting fee attached.