Yariel Rodríguez opened some eyes pitching for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. In 7.1 innings over two games, Rodríguez showcased his elite stuff, striking out 10 batters. For the Houston Astros, this should have gotten their attention.
The 26 year old has spent the last eight seasons pitching in both the Cuban National League and the Japan Central League. Working as both a starter and a reliever, Rodríguez holds a 3.07 career ERA and 1.31 WHIP, as walks have been semi-problematic. In his 2022 season leading into the WBC, Rodriguez was dominant, posting a 1.15 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.
Rodríguez sat out the 2023 season in preparation for his impending big league debut as his team negotiated the complicated international free agency process, and just this week was granted MLB free agency. According to Francys Romero, the Astros are one of the 10 teams with the best chance of landing Rodríguez.
This would be a huge win for Houston.
Yariel Rodríguez should be one of the Astros top targets this offseason
With the Astros needing to replace Hector Neris, Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek in the bullpen, and potentially needing another arm in the rotation as Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia continue rehabbing, a piece like Yariel Rodríguez is a no-brainer.
According to Romero, he's projected to receive between $40-70 million on his contract, and as we've said regarding other pitching candidates available, the time is now for Jim Crane to spend. With seven straight ALCS trips and some of the top attendance in the league, the Astros have been a cash cow over the decade that Crane has owned them.
So far, unless your last name is Verlander, he's been reluctant to pay a premium for a top player. While Houston should absolutely be pursuing names like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, we all know they'll never actually enter that arms race.
But Yariel Rodríguez is absolutely in a price point Houston should be all over. He'd be the latest in a long line of Cubans the Astros have landed, continuing their pipeline that began with Yuli Gurriel and has included superstarts like Yordan Alvarez and utility players like Aledmys Diaz.
He'd address one of their biggest areas of need this off-season, and as the reigning world champs and division rival Texas Rangers have no end in sight to their spending spree, it's time for Houston to keep up in free agency.
Yariel Rodríguez is officially eligible to sign as a free agent. Houston should be his new home.