The MLB lockout was officially over for less than 24 hours before the first big free-agent signing since the end of November - and the SF Giants are the team that has struck the first blow in the race to complete rosters leading up to the season.
In a move that will likely kick off a cascade of other signings and trades, now that Major League owners and the Players Association have agreed to a new CBA and 40-man roster transactions are allowed, the Giants reportedly signed one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market, Carlos Rodon, to a two-year, $44-million contract.
Rodon, a 29-year-old left-hander, capitalized on his longtime potential by turning in the best season of his career in 2021 with the Chicago White Sox: 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 185 and walking just 36 in 132 2/3 innings pitched. He threw a no-hitter, earned his first career All-Star nod and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young award voting.
The third overall pick by the White Sox out of North Carolina State in the 2014 amateur draft, Rodon shot to the Majors by 2015 and performed decently his first few seasons: a 3.75 ERA that year and 4.04 in 2016. Since 2017, however, he's been beset by injuries; the most innings he pitched in a season from 2017-2020 was 120 2/3 in 2018, and in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign Rodon tossed only 7 2/3 innings over four appearances while dealing with a sore shoulder.
Even last year Rodon dealt with shoulder soreness and spent nearly 20 days on the 10-day Injured List in August.
SF Giants rotation set
Rodon was seen as a possibility to replace Kevin Gausman, the 2020-21 Giants ace who signed a long-term deal with the Toronto Blue Jays before the lockout (and shared that the Giants didn't even make him an offer), and he will take the right-hander's place toward the top of the rotation.
The addition of Rodon means the Giants have a set starting five before Spring Training begins. It's likely Rodon will compete with Logan Webb for the Opening Day job, while Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Cobb will occupy the 3-5 roles.
With injury and stamina questions scattered throughout the rotation, the team will almost certainly need spot starters and the occasional injury replacement, though they certainly hope it won't be for too long. Options abound for those roles, both in the form of prospects making their way to the big leagues and minor-league signings over the winter. The Giants can also look to the market for other arms to fill the roles, as Farhan Zaidi and crew have been adept at doing.
The signing also seems to be a shot over the bow of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, with the Orange and Black announcing they're ready to defend their surprising 2021 NL West title.