Detroit Tigers: Eduardo Rodriguez is only the next step

Aug 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

Monday morning started with a BANG for all fans of the Detroit Tigers as they looked to take the next step…if not a sizable leap…forward in their journey back to contention.

Word spread like a brushfire of a report by Cody Stavenhagen at “The Athletic” telling the baseball world the Detroit Tigers were close to signing free-agent pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, formerly of the Boston Red Sox.

That’s fine. We’ll get back to the Rodriguez signing because it is a Ron Burgundy big deal…especially coupled with the Tucker Barnhart trade. In a vacuum, they are two strong moves by the Tigers. Possibly a true signal of a new direction and seasons soon where nobody talks about the draft position (raises hand). But the two aggressive moves aren’t the end. That simply can’t be.

Win the Correa-n War

As the estimable Mike Ehrmantraut once told Walter White in “Breaking Bad”, The moral of the story is: I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter.”

Leave aside the fact Walter eventually kills Mike—no! There are no Breaking Bad spoilers left. You should have just watched it—there is no question the Tigers cannot put the brakes on this off-season now. Barnhart and Rodriguez would be a half-measure toward curing what ails the ball club. Detroit has surprised us twice now this month. They must stay on this course.

The good news is it just appears the right kind of momentum seems to be building for action. Owner Chris Ilitch might just be fulfilling the promise to spend when the time is right. Ilitch is starting to show his one-time assertion of having “the fire inside to compete” might be true and not just some questionable Mahi-Mahi he just had.

Both national and local reporters seem to be getting consistent whiffs of the Tigers checking in on most big-name targets and much of it sounds substantive. Signing Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Starling Marte, or Justin Verlander just seems possible right now.

Put all this in stark contrast to the last off-season when Al Avila was more or less throwing scraps of rancid meat to the fans by signing cheap players and putting a big lid on competing for top-tier free agents.

No half-measures. During a time of CBA uncertainty, the Tigers are being proactive which is mildly shocking. Can they continue down this road? Is the intestinal fortitude there for Ilitch to go the distance now?

The Tigers have added about $22M so far to their payroll of ~$85M in ‘21. They can save a few million dollars by cutting ties with Matthew Boyd, Niko Goodrum, and a couple of others. Does Chris Ilitch have the wherewithal to pursue a couple of big-ticket items which might push payroll well above last year’s MLB average payroll of $127M and perhaps toward $150M to $155M?

Surging payroll toward $150M might seem like pie-in-the-sky thinking. But each team in MLB is set to receive about $60M in national TV money next year. The Tigers probably make roughly $50M in local TV revenue. They’ve also been receivers of MLB revenue sharing and if that continues that’s potentially another $30M coming in. That’s $140M before they’ve sold a ticket, parked a car, and made you pay $11 for a brew. Also, you make more when you win more.

Rodriguez did receive an opt-out provision after his second year in Detroit. With two years in the bank, it makes way more sense to make a push for the playoffs instead of a push for face-saving .500 record. No half measures.

Detroit can add the payroll if Ilitch says yes. The money is there. A lockout might change things…but the facts are lockouts and strikes all end. Change is coming to MLB but not to the point where the Tigers should chew their nails off worrying about the outcome of the labor strife.

Big Move Monday

It is without a doubt a thunderclap from the sky for the organization to get Rodriguez or “ERod”…it sounds like we’re going with the rather predictable first initial/first syllable nickname. It’s dull. But it did allow a joke today about Tigers fans feeling ERod-ic over the news. (be sure to tip your waitress)

Rodriguez is a very good pitcher who was being sought after by several teams. He brings along the pedigree of having survived in the hitter-friendly environs of the AL East and being a 19-game winner in a season where he posted a 6.1 bWAR. At 29 he’s still young enough to carve an even better future for himself. Rodriguez has the peripheral stats to make the analysts confident of the move. He has the electric stuff and K-rate that should interest scouts. It’s a move that solidifies the rotation nicely with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning trio.

Rodriguez inks his deal not long after Detroit opened the off-season by seizing the initiative and getting Cincinnati’s Barnhart before he could get to free agency. One of baseball’s best defensive catchers is on board for the cost of a non-prospect and Barnhart’s $7.75M deal. Barnhart’s reputation behind the plate should be attractive to free-agent pitchers.

Rodriguez and Barnhart are likely to be joined by Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Change is afoot for the Tigers roster. It’s an exciting time on Woodward Avenue. But the big move still awaits.

Whether it’s a Carlos Correa/Justin Verlander stunner of a twin-pack or a slightly smaller but still substantial move to get Trevor Story and Starling Marte, Detroit must finish the job in free agency or a blockbuster trade.

The off-season that’s started in such promising fashion must be brought in with a statement-making, spine-tingling crescendo. No half measures, Mr. Ilitch. You’ve played the right notes so far this off-season and you’re being commended. Don’t get satisfied…bring it home with a flourish.

Related Story. The fans reaction to the Eduardo Rodriguez signing. light