Wandy Rodriguez put up some good numbers with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last year. After the trade that brought him over from Houston he posted a 3.72 ERA in 75 innings. The 2012 season was also the fourth year in a row that Rodriguez went 190+ innings in a season.
Because he was traded, his 2014 option year turned from a team option to a player option. That gave him the opportunity to opt out, collect the $2.5 M buyout, and hit the free agent market. At the start of the 2013 season it looked like that was a strong possibility. Rodriguez started off with a 3.59 ERA in 62.2 innings of work over 12 starts. He looked to be on his way to another great season, and a much bigger payday in free agency than his $13 M option.
Then he got hurt. That was followed by a rehab start, which was quickly followed by Rodriguez getting shut down. He tried to throw again in late July, but felt pain and was shut down. At the end of August he learned that he had arthritis in his left elbow. He did make a rehab start a few days later, and followed that up with a simulated game last week. Each time he felt pain in the elbow, leading to him being shut down for the rest of the season over the weekend.
“It’s always been the flexor tendon in the forearm,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “He’s tried to come back through it, he’s tried to battle back through. He would rest, it felt good, and then he feels it again.”
34 year old pitchers who miss half a season with a recurring injury, and who are diagnosed with arthritis in their elbow don’t usually get big deals in free agency. I’m not sure about that last part, since I haven’t really looked up which pitchers have experienced this and how they’ve been pursued. But Rodriguez is already guaranteed $13 M, and the part about him being 34 and missing half a season with an injury would be enough to prevent him from getting more than that on the open market.
In short, expect Rodriguez back next year on his $13 M player option.
“We’re operating as if Wandy will be a Pirate next year,” Huntington said. He also noted that the Pirates “fully expect [Rodriguez] should be good to go for Spring Training.”
Having Rodriguez back is low risk from a financial standpoint. As part of the trade with Houston, the Astros will pick up $5.5 M if the option is exercised, which means the Pirates are only on the hook for $7.5 M. If Rodriguez ends up missing the entire year with this injury, then that’s usually a situation where insurance covers the cost for the team, so it’s not like the Pirates will be in a situation where they have $7.5 M in dead payroll. The only threat of dead payroll would be if Rodriguez is healthy enough to pitch, but no longer effective like he was for the Pirates in 2012 and 2013.