Detroit Tigers sign veteran starter Eduardo Rodriguez to five-year, $77 million contract

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The Detroit Tigers have their established starting pitcher.

The Tigers signed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million contract on Monday, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press. He can opt out after the second year and has a no-trade clause. He can make up to $3 million in performance bonuses.

Rodriguez, 28, has pitched six seasons for the Boston Red Sox after making his MLB debut in 2015. He has a career 4.16 ERA. He pitched 32 games (31 starts) in 2021, posting a 4.74 ERA, 47 walks and 185 strikeouts.

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He has a close relationship with Tigers assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves, who was Boston's pitching coach during spring training in 2015. Nieves, though, was fired by the Red Sox in May 2015. The Tigers promoted him from his role as Triple-A Toledo's pitching coach ahead of the 2021 season.

The Red Sox extended Rodriguez the $18.4 million qualifying offer, but he turned it down during last week's GM Meetings in Carlsbad, California. Since Rodriguez decided to sign elsewhere, the Red Sox will receive a draft pick from the Tigers as compensation.

In 2020, Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19 and developed myocarditis, a heart condition. After missing the shortened season, he bounced back in 2021. He set a career high with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and made three starts in the postseason.

He also had a 3.32 FIP, the best mark of his career, despite a career-worst 4.74 ERA. The Fielding Independent Pitching metric removes results on balls in play and focuses solely on the pitcher's controllable outcomes: strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs.

Rodriguez finished sixth in American League Cy Young voting in 2019. That year, he made a career-high 34 starts and logged a 3.81 ERA with 75 walks and 213 strikeouts over 203⅓ innings.

The Tigers expect Rodriguez to serve as a veteran on a young pitching staff, which features Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning, as the organization aims to make the postseason for the first time since 2014. All three returning pitchers completed their rookie campaigns in 2021, with Mize boasting a 3.71 ERA in 30 starts and Skubal recording 164 strikeouts in 31 games (29 starts).

Rodriguez has 11 games of playoff experience, making four starts, with a career 6.35 ERA, seven walks and 25 strikeouts over 22⅔ innings.

Before the offseason ended, the Tigers had already committed to finding an established starting pitcher in free agency. That's because 29-year-old Spencer Turnbull will miss the 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery, while 30-year-old Matthew Boyd might not be healthy enough to make the Opening Day roster as he recovers from flexor tendon surgery.

Signing Rodriguez is the second move the Tigers have made this offseason, after trading with the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Tucker Barnhart — a two-time Gold Glove winner — in early November. They're also making an effort to sign one of six shortstops on the free-agent market: Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Chris Taylor.

Before inking Rodriguez to a multi-year contract, the Tigers had interest other solid starting pitchers with upside such as right-hander Jon Gray, righty Anthony DeSclafani and left-hander Steven Matz.

The Tigers also plan to add another starting pitcher — a veteran with a lower average annual value — to fill the fifth spot in the rotation. (Someone like Wily Peralta or Rich Hill would make sense.) Although a reunion with Justin Verlander, who pitched for the Tigers from 2005-17, was always unlikely, the deal with Rodriguez completely closes the door on any chance of his return to Detroit in 2022.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Eduardo Rodriguez signs with Detroit Tigers on five-year deal