In what has been one of the truly great bounce-back seasons in baseball history. Carlos Rodon has become an ace-caliber pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. With the emergence of Dylan Cease as well, they have a 4 headed monster of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease in the rotation which is arguably the best in baseball.As for Cease, he is still under contract and has another year of team control before entering his first year of arbitration in 2023. As for Rodon, not so much. This past offseason, the White Sox and Rodon agreed to a one-year deal for 3 million. After this season, he is set to walk free once again. This time, the White Sox needs to extend him without letting him go.
As for the peripherals, Rodon has clearly made adjustments and is now mowing down hitters left and right with a 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. His 2.43 ERA and 2.70 FIP are both far and away career-best but before we go any further, it is important to understand that though, on paper, Rodon was terrible the last two years. A deeper look into his numbers reveals that positive regression was on its way.
Starting with 2019, Rodon posted an ERA of 5.19 in 34.2 innings pitched. However, his FIP was a mere 3.62. If you believe in analytics and sabermetrics, then this tells you a big chunk of that 5.19 was rather due to bad luck from a spotty defense or situations where Rodon found himself in spots that he necessarily shouldn’t be having to allow earned runs. In short, it tells you Rodon shouldn’t have been as bad as he looked.
The Chicago White Sox needed this type of magical season from Carlos Rodon.
In 2020, after posting an 8.22 ERA in only 7.2 innings, again Rodon’s FIP was much lower than his ERA at only 4.89. Now, 4.89 is still high and this was clearly negative regression for him. Nevertheless, the signs of “It’s not as bad as you think” were really showing, until ultimately Rodon metamorphized into what he is today which is dominant.
Fast-forwarding to 2021, Rodon has now pitched 114.2 innings in 20 starts. His FIP is 2.70 which is better than most big leaguers’ actual ERA. He was more than deserving of his first all-star nod this season. Much like Lucas Giolito in 2018, coming off his worst season, Rodon came off his worst season, adjusted what he needed to, and stampeded out of the gate. He has turned into an ace-caliber arm for the White Sox and will 100% be in the postseason rotation.
The case for extending Rodon is simple. He made key adjustments and you see it in his numbers. Given the fact that he is only 28, he can still have multiple years of success ahead of him. Also, given the fact that this is the best year of his career, the White Sox could button this up before he goes for a bigger number in free agency should he put up good postseason numbers as well.
The 114.2 innings pitched with a 2.43 ERA is more than enough of a sample size needed to determine that he has turned the corner. They should extend him now before his price goes up after the playoffs. If they have a big 3 of Giolito, Lynn, and Rodon around for at least another two seasons, things will go well. With Cease getting better and better, this rotation can be the best in baseball for years to come.