How Carlos Rodon’s tricky contract created a ‘wedge’ in Giants trade talks

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Zaidi explains how Rodón’s opt-out created a ‘wedge’ in trade talks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in the fifth inning on July 21 at Dodger Stadium, Carlos Rodón blew Freddie Freeman to center and Will Smith to left. He landed two strikes on Justin Turner, then returned a curveball that the Dodgers third baseman popped weak on the right. Rodón watched it land in Luis Gonzalez’s glove, then walked slowly towards the visitors’ dugout.

For the 53,000 spectators and the national public watching on television, it was a very routine round. For Rodón, it was quite huge.

Rodón came to San Francisco partly because of the creative structuring of his two-year contract. The Giants gave him the option to opt out of the deal after 2022 if he reached 110 innings, and Rodón did so on the first night of the second half.

He can — and almost certainly will — opt out of his deal after the season, and as the Giants probed the trade market this week, they found that to be a complication. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi did not actively seek to deal with Rodón, but with the Giants falling in the standings in July, he took numerous phone calls and took a “very open-minded” approach at the due date.

Rodón ultimately stuck to orange and black, and on Friday’s Giants Talk podcast, Zaidi explained how the opt-out complicated talks that might have seemed simpler from the outside.

“It created an interesting corner in those discussions,” Zaidi said. “First of all we feel good about (Rodón’s) health and he hasn’t had any problems this year and obviously has thrown very well for us. But if he comes to the end of the year and withdraws, we have the possibility of extending the qualifying offer. We will certainly have discussions to bring him back (on a new contract). He was a great Giant.

“When you look at a acquiring team, they lose the ability to qualify him, so they don’t have that potential comeback, and I think the acquiring teams were concerned about the option of the player basically serving as an insurance policy for the player, which is really what those player options are. Obviously, we were willing to take a chance because we just believed in his ability to help us and keep us healthy.

The Giants, of course, set a high price on Rodón, who was also easily the best starting pitcher available after Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas were traded to the Mariners and Yankees, respectively. The industry consensus was that the Reds and A’s did well in those trades, and the Giants should have been able to secure a good package for Rodón.

But increasingly, front offices are becoming risk averse, and Rodón came up with what some rival evaluators saw as a huge complication. If he remains healthy, he will retire. If he gets hurt, he can just take his $22.5 million option for 2023 and try free agency again a year later. He wasn’t a real hire, but he wasn’t under the club’s control until 2023 either, like Castillo and Montas.

You can argue that this is all overkill and other front offices might regret their decision. Rodón leads all starting pitchers in FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement and is the kind of overpowered pitcher who can start Game 1 of a playoff series for any competitor. Every pitcher poses a risk of injury, but if you want to hit, you should hit someone who can help you win a title.

The Giants signed Rodón for that purpose, and they were able to sign him to a two-year contract due to shoulder pain in 2021 that limited his market. But Rodón has been healthy all year, taking the ball all five days. If he continues, he will step down and try to match offers from Robbie Ray ($115 million) or Kevin Gausman ($110 million) from last offseason.

Zaidi said the Giants would consider keeping him for the long term, and at the very least, they would get draft compensation back if Rodón ran away, just like they did for Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith after a similar delay in 2019. being somewhat equivalent to what was there on Tuesday, as the Giants never received the kind of offer that would see them trade their best player, in part because of the opt-out that Zaidi has described as a “realistic complication”.

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On Tuesday, everyone involved said they were happy with how it all went. The Giants then lost their next three games, dropping 6½ games from last place in the NL playoffs. They might finally look back on Aug. 2 and think it was a missed opportunity, but Zaidi said the prospect of holding a full sale was never there.

This seems to be confirmed by what happened elsewhere, notably in Chicago. The Cubs, in a full rebuild, suspended Willson Contreras and Ian Happ for months but ended up trading no players.

“I think for the sake of our long-term image, we had to be open-minded about (the trades), but we were going to have a high cost to step back this year, to hurt our chances this year with ( trade) some guys who could have been impact players for other teams and are impact players for us,” Zaidi said. “It was an interesting deadline. I think when you compare it to last year – although there were some headlines (this year) obviously – you didn’t see the full volume of moves .

“Some teams that I would call pure sellers, which we certainly weren’t, kept some players, and even some players whose contracts were expiring, that was a bit of a surprise. But I think that says a bit about the fact that it was ‘not quite the sellers’ market it was last year.’

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