A year after he shocked baseball by signing both Markus Semien and Corey Seeger For a combined half-billion dollars, the Rangers appear to be considering at least a similar double-dip into the deep end of the free-agent pool. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rangers have met Carlo Rodon Just a day after signing Jacob de Grom to a hefty five-year, $185 million deal.
With deGrom in Texas and Justin Verlander After settling with the Mets, Rodon is the only free-agent ace remaining on the board. He has reportedly been targeting a six-year contract worth more than $30 million a year — a weighty sum for a pitcher with a long injury history that includes both shoulder surgery and Tommy John surgery.
However, in recent years Rodon has left little doubt that he is one of the most talented pitchers in the sport. After signing a $3 million pillow deal with the White Sox during the 2020-21 offseason, he finally lived up to expectations that came with his name dating back to his No. 3 overall pick in the draft. For the first four months of the 2021 season, Rodon was arguably the best pitcher in baseball and looked like the clear front-runner for the American League’s Cy Young Award.
However, shoulder fatigue limited Rodon to just 28 innings in the final two months of the season, and when he tumbled down the stretch in 2021 it was often at reduced speed. The White Sox were apparently cautious enough that they declined to make a qualifying offer, and Rodon signed a two-year, $44 million contract with the Giants that allowed him to opt back to the open market if he reached 110 innings in the season.
Not only did Rodon reach 110 innings, but he put himself back on the periphery of the Cy Young race. The left-hander threw a career-high 178 innings with a 2.88 ERA, maintained his speed late into the season and averaged more than 5 2/3 innings per start as a member of the Giants. He led the National League in strikeouts and has led all major league pitchers (min. 200 innings) since opening day 2021 with a strikeout rate of 33.9%. Rodon has done all of this while achieving a combined ERA of 2.67 with similarly excellent marks in FIP (2.42) and SIERA (2.88).
Viewers may wonder how Rangers could even consider spending so aggressively in such a short space of time – especially when so many teams have been reluctant to pay the luxury tax in recent seasons. The increased luxury tax thresholds in the 2022-26 contract certainly play a role, as the first-stage threshold has risen from $210 million in 2021 to $233 million in the coming season.
However, the luxury tax isn’t a big issue for Rangers — at least not yet. Roster Resource reckons they currently have about $192.4 million in luxury signings, meaning even signing Rodon at a $30 million AAV still nets them more than $10 million leeway from the first stage of punishment. It’s also worth noting that the penalty for first-time offenders is relatively tepid. Rangers would owe a 20 percent tax on the first $20 million by which they exceed the $233 million threshold and a 30 percent tax on the next $20 million. Even breaking the $40 million luxury barrier would net the Rangers $10 million in penalties — about the price of signing a back-of-the-rotation starter in the current market.
Of course, signing Rodon would directly prepare Rangers for potential long-term status as luxury payers. The combination of deGrom, Seager, Semien and Jon Gray totals $107.5 million alone, and even if Rodon raised more than $30 million, Texas would be nearly 60% of the way to luxury territory by the 2024 campaign — and that doesn’t even include arbitrable players and pre -Arb Player to round out the list.
However, Texas is enjoying the fruits of a newly built stadium that attracted more than two million fans in 2022 and can safely expect that number to rise in 2023 with deGrom on board (at least) for now. Ownership of all 30 clubs is perhaps a little more willing to spend, too, after the league sold its remaining 15 percent stake in BAMTech to Disney for $900 million, the spoils of which were split among the teams. Meanwhile, lucrative streaming deals with Apple and NBC/Peacock have only boosted revenue for the league’s 30 teams. Heading into the 2022 season, national television and streaming rights brought in approximately $65 million in revenue for all 30 teams, before local television deals, viewership, concessions and other revenue streams are factored in.