Can Dodgers add surprise bullpen target after Cuban WBC star broke contract?
By Adam Weinrib
Days before his regular season was supposed to begin with the Chunichi Dragons of NPB, star Cuban setup man Yariel Rodríguez has defected with the intention of finding his way to the big leagues.
Though his path was different from the one chosen by Cuban backup catcher Iván Prieto González in Miami for the World Baseball Classic, the end result was the same. Now Rodríguez, a 26-year-old who has three years of experience in professional baseball overseas in Japan, will chase his MLB dreams.
The timing? Less than ideal. But it's no secret that, even as rosters settle throughout the game, no team can ever have enough bullpen arms.
The Dodgers, especially, will enter Opening Day with an unsettled bullpen full of bounce-back potential and wild cards. If Rodríguez is suddenly available, will the Dodgers jump?
Dodgers Target: Yariel Rodríguez for Bullpen Role?
Rodríguez's deal will obviously be a complex risk for any team that signs him, but his age is enticing. If the Dodgers have no intention of dipping under the luxury tax, then it's also the exact kind of risk that a team like them can stomach (and one that borderline eliminates mid-tier teams).
Last season as the Dragons' setup man, Rodríguez posted a 1.15 ERA and 0.915 WHIP while striking out 60 and allowing just 32 hits in 54.2 innings. It's difficult to directly translate his numbers to the bigs, but in much the same way that Masataka Yoshida proved himself in the World Baseball Classic, Rodríguez has recent, relevant information on his resumé. In two WBC games, he tossed 7.1 innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs, walking six and striking out 10.
Plus, he's already got experience sending Xander Bogaerts back to the dugout encased in ice. That could be helpful in Chavez Ravine.
Without Blake Treinen for a significant portion of the year, as well as recent pickups like JP Feyereisen and Alex Reyes, the Dodgers could use some stability around Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte.
Rodríguez ... won't exactly provide that, but at the very least, his arm is live, he's healthy, and he's coming off the most prominent highlight of his young career. Why not take the plunge?