The Red Sox have signed left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez to a one-year contract for the 2023 season, the club announced on Wednesday. The deal comes with a club option for 2024 as well.
Rodriguez, who turned 31 earlier this month, will make at least $2 million in guaranteed money with the Red Sox. His contract includes a base salary of $1.5 million in 2023 and up to $2 million in active roster bonuses, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The Red Sox then hold a $4.25 million option over Rodriguez for 2024. If they decline that, Rodriguez will receive $500,000 in the form of a buyout. When taking other performance bonuses into account, Rodriguez’s deal can max out at $8.25 million over the next two seasons.
After finishing with the fifth-worst bullpen ERA (4.59) this year, the Red Sox have elected to make Rodriguez their first free agent addition of the offseason. The Dominican-born southpaw spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign with the Mets and posted a 4.47 ERA and 3.23 FIP to go along with 57 strikeouts to 26 walks over 55 relief appearances spanning 50 1/3 innings of work.
Rodriguez was initially one of 12 pitchers to make the Mets’ Wild Card series roster last month, but he was removed from it following Game 1 due to an unspecified shoulder issue that ultimately required minor surgery after the season, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.
Listed at 6-foot-1, and 200 pounds, Rodriguez operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a sinker and changeup — his two most frequently-used offerings — as well as a four-seam fastball and slider. This past season, Rodriguez limited opposing hitters to an average exit velocity of 85.3 mph, a hard-hit rate of 31.8 percent, and a barrel rate of 3.8 percent, per Baseball Savant. His chase rate of 34.7 percent also ranked in the 94th percentile of the league.
The Red Sox, per Cotillo, are intrigued by Rodriguez’s pitch mix and his ability to induce ground balls, soft contact, and whiffs. They are optimistic that his performance will be more in line with his Statcast numbers as opposed to his 4.56 career ERA moving forward. They also believe in his ability to get both right-handed and left-handed hitters out, as he held righties to a .625 OPS against and lefties to a .645 OPS in 2022.
A native of Santo Domingo, Rodriguez first signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in March 2009. He was traded to the Phillies in 2014 and made his major-league debut two years later. In June 2017, Rodriguez was traded to the Rangers and became a free agent at the end of the season. He spent part of the 2018 campaign in the Orioles system before signing with the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball.
After spending the remainder of 2018 and the entirety of 2019 in Japan, Rodriguez returned to the major-leagues in 2020 with the Rangers. Texas traded him and Joey Gallo to the Yankees at the 2021 trade deadline. New York then flipped him to the Mets for fellow reliever Miguel Castro back in April.
All told, Rodriguez owns a 4.56 ERA and 3.65 FIP across 157 career appearances (146 innings) in five seasons at the big-league level. The lefty will now join a Red Sox bullpen that at the moment includes the likes of Matt Barnes, John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, Ryan Brasier, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, and Zack Kelly, among others.
While that group could still undergo a dramatic change between now and Opening Day, Rodriguez is line to provide Boston with a left-handed relief option in 2023. With the addition of Rodriguez, the Red Sox currently have 39 platers on their 40-man roster.
(Picture of Joely Rodriguez: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)