It's time to make a legitimate move on Eduardo Rodriguez


Theo Epstein was really good at it.

Finding just the right time to make the right offer. And, at the end of those days, those offers -- to the likes of Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- were the lifeblood for that roster's run.

Contract extensions can simply make-or-break a payroll or a franchise.

We seem to be at that crossroads with Eduardo Rodriguez.

It was understandable if the Red Sox were a bit sheepish when it came to going all-in on Rodriguez this offseason or even in spring training. He had one standout season, hadn't pitched since 2019 and was coming off an ailment -- myocarditis -- which was a foreign obstacle in the world of professional sports.

But now we sit here and it seems like this might just be the sweet spot to put the Red Sox' best foot forward. Not the four-year, $70 million kind of approach they took with Lester back in 2014. No, this should be the "We know you are going to be the best free agent pitching option on the free agent market and we're willing to pay you as such."

Some might look at this approach as somewhat reactionary considering Rodriguez turned in an ace-like performance Sunday afternoon against the Mariners. And don't take our word for it. Listen to his manager after the seven-inning, three-run, eight-strikeout, no-walk outing.

"That’s what aces do, right? They put their team on their back and carry us to a W," Cora said after his team's 5-3 win over Seattle at Fenway Park. He then added, "He was in the second half of the season in '19. When everybody went down, he kept giving us innings and going deep into ballgames. It seems like whenever he pitched, we were coming from a bullpen game, so we had not too many arms in the bullpen and he was 115 pitches, just grinding it out. He did an amazing job, he grew up. Too bad obviously with the virus and everything that happened last year he wasn't able to perform, but coming into the season, I knew that he was in a good spot. We're going to take care of him, we'll check with him how he feels tomorrow and next day, and we go from there, but I have no doubts that this guy he'll either extend winning streaks or stop losing streaks. He is that good. He's is that good."

As we sit here, Rodriguez is the Red Sox' ace. There is no doubt about. The numbers -- 4-0, 3.52 ERA -- back it up. The image does the same.

Understand this: Since 2019, the Red Sox are 30-8 on days Rodriguez pitches. That's 30-8!

So, let's play this out ... What if the Red Sox don't make their move and let Rodriguez gets to free agency. If they wait to show their legitimate interest at that point, it's going to take an even bigger chunk out of Chaim Bloom's ability to spend elsewhere. (Note: Theo saved the team about $60 million by signing Beckett when he did.)

If Rodriguez does walk, how are you going to replace him?

The Red Sox will still have such serviceable pieces as Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, with Garrett Richards, Martin Perez and Connor Seabold possibly serving as legitimate pieces of the puzzle. There will also be the wild card that is Garrett Whitlock.

But none are the types who can currently be counted on to the level Rodriguez is leaned on.

Another free agent? Good luck with that. It's a subpar class full of 30-somethings.

And it certainly doesn't seem like the Red Sox want to go the route of trading their cream-of-the-crop minor leaguers to fill this spot, hence passing on the likes of Blake Snell.

Maybe Rodriguez is taking the Mookie Betts approach and digging in, more than willing to bet on himself rather than soak in the security that would come with locking in on an extension. In that case, so be it.

But considering Rodriguez's age, ability, performance, and willingness to take the good and the bad of Boston, this would seem to be best-foot-forward time for the Red Sox.

“I mean, I'm all the way back already," Rodriguez said. "From the first start of the season, every time I go out there, I feel like I’m all the way back. Like I said, today was one of those days you don’t feel that much power on your fastball but the command was there and it was great to have it.”