What about Wandy Rodriguez?


Yesterday I posted an article discussing a few of the Free Agent starting pitchers the Astros might be considering this winter. Sure, there are plenty of other pitchers on the market — I just wanted to highlight the ones that I saw as the best options. If history tells us anything, the Astros are more likely to go discount shopping and bring in more Erik Bedard and Philip Humber types. Regardless of the strategy the Astros decide to employ, there is one of our old favorites that  won’t be coming back any time soon. Wandy Rodriguez.

Wandy Rodriguez (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Rodriguez made only 12 starts for the Pirates last season due to arm troubles. Wandy left his June 6 start against the Braves in the first inning with forearm tightness. It would be his last big league action of the season.

A number of setbacks during his minor league rehab assignment resulted in a September trip to see Dr. James Andrews. The acclaimed orthopedist diagnosed Rodriguez with arthritis of the left elbow. Rodriguez was allowed to continue throwing, but after experiencing pain in a subsequent bullpen session the Pirates decided to shut him down for the season.

In 62 & 2/3 innings pitched, Wandy posted career bests in WHIP (1.117) and BB% (4.6%). He won six of ten decisions, including four straight, and managed to keep his ERA below 3.8 for the sixth straight season.

A large number of Astros fans were dismayed when the club signed Rodriguez to a 3-year, $34 million contract extension in January of 2011. Some thought that the club was overpaying while others suggested the deal would make it impossible to trade the lefty. As it turns out, both groups were wrong. Although the Astros did have to agree to pay part of Wandy’s salary to finalize a deal with Pittsburgh — Jeff Luhnow was still able to secure a trio of prospects, including outfielder Robbie Grossman.

Rodriguez proved to be a dependable starter in the first year of the contract, making it possible for the Astros to move him at the trade deadline. After seeing him post a 2.5 WAR in 2012, the Pirates went into 2013 with Rodriguez slotted into the #2 spot in their rotation. Wandy responded by twirling seven shutout innings on the second day of the season and the Buccos were victorious in eight of his first eleven starts. Unfortunately, the injury bug would eventually rear its ugly head.

Now, the wording of Wandy’s contract suddenly takes on an interesting role in the pitcher’s future. The third year (2014) of the contract is worth $13 million and was set up as an option year. When Rodriguez was traded that option year transformed from a team option to a player option. That  means Wandy now has the final say on whether or not he wants to collect $13 million to be a member of the Pirates this coming season. Given the circumstances, that seems like a no-brainer.

But what if the shoe was on the other foot and the Pirates were the ones making the decision? Would they want to keep Rodriguez? The emergence of Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke gives Neal Huntington and company a couple of cost effective options that may have otherwise made Wandy expendable.

The option clause in Wandy’s contract was probably a big factor in the Pirates insisting that Houston take on part of his salary over the life of the contract. The Astros are still on the hook for $5.5 million of Rodriguez’s 2014 salary. The good news is — that’s the only money the Astros owe to a former player.

So, at least for now, Wandy Rodriguez will remain a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I, for one, wish him a speedy recovery and all the best. Who knows? Maybe we will see him back in an Astros uniform… someday.