This was Eduardo Rodriguez to WEEI.com at the end of the 2019 season when asked about his talks with the Red Sox about a possible contract extension ...
“They haven’t done that with me,” he said. “If it happens, it happens. I still have two more years here. We’ll see how that goes. I love it here and I want to stay here for a long time. If they want me to, I’ll stay here. … I haven’t had that conversation yet so I don’t know how that feels.”
The guess is that Rodriguez feels the same way when it comes to his comfort level with the Red Sox. He has his manager of choice. He has become one of the pieces of the Red Sox' clubhouse's foundation. And he has evolved into the kind of pitcher that every organization needs, an ace.
So why aren't we talking about this Rodriguez contract thing more?
Understandably, there has been a lot going on in Red Sox world. New manager. Free agent targets. Potential trades. Even E-Rod's health. But really, if we're going to power-rank a list of priorities, figuring out Rodriguez's future has to be near the top.
That's how vital this guy is.
Remember that offseason Jon Lester was headed into his contract year, or the hub-bub surrounding Chris Sale's final season under Red Sox control? Those were the top-of-the-rotation anchors everyone knew were going to present a significant fork in the road for the Red Sox. The Rodriguez narrative should be no different.
He has one more year of arbitration-eligibility before becoming eligible for free agency after the 2021 season (at which time Rodriguez will be just 27 years old). And assuming the lefty keeps going down a positive path when it comes to his recovery from myocarditis, the assumption is that he will represent the one exclamation point in the Red Sox' rotation.
You let Rodriguez walk? Good luck.
The last thing the Red Sox need to be doing is chasing their tail once again when trying to reel in a no-holds-barred ace, as was the case when attempting to make up for Lester's departure with a $217 million signing (David Price) and then the jettisoning of their two top prospects (for Sale).
Now, it is a bit more complicated than simply giving Rodriguez ace money and years and then stepping aside.
Like the Red Sox really didn't do a good job in the case of Lester or Sale, they need to correctly read the room.
With Lester's scenario, they had a pitcher who just wanted to stay at what would have been probably a slightly-below-market-value deal. Instead, they tried low-balling him and could never recover.
Sale? He was always going to prioritize staying with the Red Sox, showing no signs of wanting to test free agency. He also was coming off an injury. But instead of using the extra time to gauge where the lefty was physically and production-wise after his injury-plagued 2018, the Sox jumped the gun, locked up Sale and since has gotten 25 starts (with the Red Sox going 10-15 in those games), a 4.40 ERA and now the hope he can return around June from Tommy John surgery.
So, when is the best time for the Red Sox to make their serious move on extending Rodriguez?
A case can be made that it is right now, with the starter perhaps feeling somewhat uncertain about what lies ahead. There is a chance Rodriguez wants security now more than ever. It's a scenario Josh Beckett remembers going through just before signing his first deal with the Sox.
Maybe Rodriguez is taking the same approach as former teammates Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., betting on himself while viewing this as a business. Because if he does go out and have a season like 2019 (19-6, 3.81 ERA, 203 1/3 innings), there isn't going to be a free agent pitcher who will get much more than Rodriguez.
And what if the Red Sox don't believe they can sign him? There has been zero talks about using a Rodriguez trade as a potential means to an end when it comes to rebuilding the Sox, in large part because this is the one spot on their roster that simply can't be diluted heading into 2021. But, in a lot of respects how is this any different than the Betts' scenario?
Because of baseball's economics, Rodriguez's uncertain health and fairly limited track record, this isn't a turn-key proposition. But it is an important one for the Red Sox. It's time to start talking about exactly how important.