Tigers chase White Sox in Central with Eduardo Rodríguez signing

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Free-agent signing bolsters Sox' chief Central rivals originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The team that could prove the Chicago White Sox' top challengers for the American League Central crown in 2022 has reportedly made a big splash in the early stages of the offseason.

According to multiple reports, the Detroit Tigers are bringing in starting pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez on a five-year free-agent deal worth north of $75 million, boosting a rotation that ranked second in the division, behind the White Sox, with a 4.17 ERA in 2021.

The Tigers are on the rise and could very soon provide the White Sox with the type of challenge the Central champs didn't receive from division opponents this past season. Playing under new manager A.J. Hinch in 2021, the Tigers followed up a woeful April that saw them go 8-19 by playing above-.500 ball the rest of the way, going 69-66.

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Like the White Sox did over the course of several recent seasons, Detroit's rebuilding project includes the influx of numerous exciting young players, including two of the top seven prospects in baseball, per MLB.com's rankings, and multiple members of the major league rotation.

Rodríguez now becomes part of the long-term planning in the Motor City. A 28-year-old lefty who logged six major league seasons with the Boston Red Sox, he had a career year in 2019, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young vote. After not pitching at all in 2020, he posted a 4.74 ERA and struck out 185 hitters in 157.2 innings for the wild-card winning Red Sox in 2021. After a bumpy first half that saw his ERA climb as high as 6.21 in June, he finished strong, posting a 3.66 ERA over his final 19 trips to the mound.

He's made five career starts against the White Sox, allowing 12 earned runs in 30 innings.

Rodríguez will see that number of starts against the South Siders climb as he joins a promising Tigers rotation that currently includes recent draft picks of note Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Tyler Alexander. Spencer Turnbull, who threw a no-hitter in 2021, will miss the 2022 season while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The Tigers are off to a busy start this winter, Rodríguez's signing the biggest splash yet in a body of work that already included the additions of catcher Tucker Barnhart and outfielder Robbie Grossman.

It's certainly something for White Sox fans to keep an eye on as a challenger rises in the AL Central.

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