Yankees preparing to return their $162 million ace pitcher

carlos rodon, yankees
Feb 22, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) during photo day at George M. Steinbrenner Field Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have been exercising patience as they anticipate the return of Carlos Rodon, a $162 million free agent signee. Rodon’s string of unfortunate events, including a left forearm strain during spring training and a subsequent diagnosis of a chronic back issue, have led to speculation that his signing might have been a significant misstep.

Rodon’s Rehabilitation Journey: A Glimmer of Hope

Despite these setbacks, Rodon has participated in three rehab assignments, two with Double-A Somerset and one with High-A Hudson Valley.

Remarkably, in his initial two rehab assignments, he conceded only one earned run across seven innings, striking out nine and allowing a mere two hits. During his latest game against Washington’s High-A affiliate, he pitched for 3.2 innings, striking out eight and yielding only one hit and two walks.

The impressive performance of this 30-year-old starter is a clear indication that he’s ready for activation. Fans and teammates alike eagerly look forward to his much-anticipated return against the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.

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Rodon’s Promising Track Record

Over the past two years, Rodon has proven to be one of the game’s elite pitchers. In 2021, while with the Chicago White Sox, he had a 2.37 ERA over 132.2 innings. Moving on to the San Francisco Giants the following season, he managed to better his performance over a career-high 178 innings, concluding with a 2.88 ERA, 2.91 xFIP, 12 strikeouts per nine, a 75.1% left on base rate, 34.1% ground ball rate, and a 6.5% HR/FB ratio. These statistics contributed to his personal best 6.2 WAR.

In light of the Yankees’ recent rotation struggles, particularly Luis Severino’s latest slump, where he allowed 14 earned runs and 19 hits across his previous two starts, Rodon’s comeback offers a much-needed boost ahead of the All-Star break.

Rodon’s Pitching Style: A Game-Changer for the Yankees?

Rodon is known for his lethal combination of a four-seam fastball and a slider. Last season, opponents recorded a batting average of .213 against his fastball, which averaged 95.5 mph. Furthermore, they registered a 27.9% whiff rate and a 24.1% put-away rate, with his fastball achieving 8% more vertical movement than the average pitcher’s.

Rodon’s slider, in particular, was notably more devastating. It induced a mere .193 batting average from opponents while boasting a formidable 39% whiff rate and a 24.2% put-away rate. This potent pitch led to 93 total strikeouts across 218 at-bats.

Rodon’s slider’s proficiency extends to its movement, producing 64% more horizontal motion than that of an average pitcher, effectively dominating left-handed hitters. A contributing factor to Rodon’s dominance on the mound lies in his assertive strike-throwing approach, reflected in his commendable 61.5% first-strike rate last season.

A High-Stakes Return for Yankees’ GM

The Yankees are undoubtedly thrilled at the prospect of welcoming back one of their most significant investments in recent years, especially considering general manager Brian Cashman’s track record with big-name acquisitions. Although Cashman has consistently excelled in identifying under-the-radar talents who bring substantial value to the team, the success of his high-profile deals has been less consistent.

With Rodon locked in on a six-year contract, the hope is that this big deal will finally pan out, bringing a significant return on investment.