SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eduardo Rodriguez received recognition for his breakout 2019 campaign with a sixth-place finish in American League Cy Young voting.
Rodriguez had a spectacular year as the anchor of the Red Sox staff, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and setting career-highs in wins, innings (203⅓ ), and strikeouts (213) while averaging 9.4 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings. Perhaps most significantly, a pitcher who’d been limited to an average of 22 starts a year from 2016-18 finally remained healthy for a full season.
Rodriguez thus led the majors with 34 starts and positioned himself for the greatest mound success of his career as well as his sixth-place finish. Even so, the lefthander didn’t meet the lofty expectations with which the 26-year-old entered the year.
“He knew he was at the point where he could do this,” agent Scott Pucino of Octagon said at the GM Meetings. “His goal was actually to win the Cy Young. Although he placed, it’s his goal to win one and to win a world championship again. He worked really hard in the offseason and he’s doing the same this year.”
Rodriguez received three fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes in AL Cy Young balloting, placing sixth behind second-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole of the Astros, Charlie Morton of the Rays, Shane Bieber of Cleveland, and Lance Lynn of the Rangers.
While Rodriguez did not win the award, he was the beneficiary of the wisdom of a trio of rotation mates who have either won or contended frequently for the award. Though Rodriguez (acquired from the Orioles in 2014) does not represent a pure homegrown development story, Pucino made clear that the lefthander has benefited “a lot” from his five seasons with the Red Sox, and from being around Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello.
“When you pitch with pitchers like them, you’re working with other guys who have accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish. That leadership from them on down to him has been great,” said Pucino. “He’s always talked about pitching with those guys, what a joy it’s been and how much he’s learned from them. Hopefully he can teach others in the future.”
Rodriguez, who earned $4.3 million in 2019, is arbitration-eligible for the third time this winter and remains under team control for two more years — a window that he’d certainly be open to extending, even if such a possibility seems unlikely for 2020 given the team’s stated desire to get under the luxury tax threshold.
“He has two more years left of arbitration. I think that when the Red Sox are ready, he would love to remain a Red Sox,” said Pucino. “They already won a world championship and have given him an opportunity that he really appreciates. When they’re ready to discuss that, he’s going to have open arms and listen to what they say — but I think they have to be ready to do that.”
Slow down on Pedroia
Despite promising signs in his recovery from a joint preservation procedure on his left knee in August, Dustin Pedroia isn’t taking his potential return to baseball for granted following a succession of major surgeries and setbacks that have limited him to nine big league games over the last two years. In a podcast with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Pedroia said that he has surprised his doctors with the state of his recovery. Even so, Pedroia remains focused primarily on assuring the quality of his life moving forward, a consideration that will trump the baseball calendar in guiding his rehab process.
“Everybody is excited and whatnot. But I’m like, ‘We’ll see. There’s a long way to go,’ ” Pedroia said. “Obviously, I’m going to need to get a knee replacement and all that, but [the surgeon] was very surprised with how everything’s responded. That set off in my mind [that] the ultimate goal is to finish what I started. We’ll see.”
In Tokyo, Red Sox prospect Tanner Houck allowed two runs on two hits and two walks while striking out five in five innings on Wednesday for Team USA in their 2-1 loss to Australia in the Premier12 tournament. Another Red Sox prospect, righthander Noah Song, delivered a perfect inning with a strikeout. Song — the Naval Academy graduate whom the Red Sox selected in the fourth round this year, and who is currently slated to report to aviation school in December — featured a fastball that one scout clocked as high as 100 m.p.h. . . . The Red Sox have released seven minor leaguers. Most notable among them was 25-year-old righthander Jake Cosart, a 2014 third-round pick. Cosart — who features a fastball that regularly registered in the mid- and upper-90s, posted a 1.72 ERA in 31⅓ innings in Lowell, High A Salem, and Double A Portland in 2019, though as has been the case for much of his career, he struggled with his control, walking 17 batters. The team also released outfielders Jordan Wren and Fabian Andrade, righthanders Hildemaro Requena and Devon Fisher, lefty Angel Padron, infielder Jonathan Ortega, and catcher Alberto Schmidt . . .
Falvey weighs in
Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey declined to comment on a Minneapolis Star Tribune report that he passed on a chance to interview with the Red Sox for the role that ultimately went to Chaim Bloom. But the Lynn native — who received a contract extension from the Twins that will run through 2024 — made clear that he is immensely happy in his current role, and wants to continue to build on the successes he’s experienced (two playoff berths, including an AL Central crown in 2019) over three years in Minnesota.
“I have always been very appreciative of every job that I’ve had in baseball,” said Falvey. “When I got a chance to go to Minnesota, the Pohlad family took a chance on me. They didn’t have to. They could have hired anybody else and they hired me. Since that day, I have felt incredibly supported. Deep down, when you have that support and you make that level of commitment to an organization and its ownership, that’s really important to me.”
The GM Meetings typically feature few transactions. More often, they serve to lay groundwork for follow-up discussions with teams about trades and agents about their clients who are on the open market. In 2016, for instance, it was on the way out of the GM Meetings at the Omni Scottsdale Resort — the same venue where this year’s meetings are taking place — that the Red Sox and Brewers found common ground on the beginning of a framework that led to the (ill-fated) Tyler Thornburg trade.
When the contingent of Red Sox front office members heads back to Boston on Thursday, the team likely will do so without any changes to its major league roster — but with a greater sense of the industry landscape, helping to inform a roster reshaping that is still to come.
“Starting these conversations with every club in some kind of a formal manner I think gives you a basis to go forward and just figure out what those options might be,” said Bloom. “This week was really the start of laying out what those might be, even if it’s preliminary.”
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com.