Over the weekend, the Red Sox reportedly worked out one of the more intriguing and mysterious arms in this year's free agent class.
Right-hander Yariel Rodriguez has followed a winding road to the cusp of a big-league contract, from his native Cuba to three seasons in Japan, where he emerged as a valuable reliever for the Chunichi Dragons.
What makes Rodriguez a bit of a mystery is that, outside of last spring's World Baseball Classic, he hasn't pitched competitively in more than a year. He sat out last season in an attempt to come to the U.S., but Chunichi would not let him out of his contract.
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Granted his release last October, he was declared a free agent by MLB and has conducted at least two workouts for interested teams, including one on Saturday in the Dominican Republic for the Red Sox and Padres, per reporter Francys Romero.
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Rodriguez was a reliever in Japan, where he posted a 1.15 ERA in 2022 while allowing zero homers in 56 appearances, but he is being scouted as a potential starter. He made two starts for Cuba in the WBC, going 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA, allowing five hits and six walks while striking out 10 in 7. 1 innings.
He throws an upper-90s fastball with a slider and curveball, and while he's listed at 6-foot-1 and only 164 pounds, he looks burlier in workout videos posted by Romero. He turns 27 in March, which makes him young for a free agent starter.
If the Red Sox want Rodriguez, they'll have competition for his services, since 15 teams reportedly attended a workout last month, including the Yankees, Astros, Rangers, and Dodgers. MLB Trade Rumors projects he'll earn four years and $32 million in free agency.
He's viewed as a mid-rotation or depth option, which the Red Sox need even as they prioritize the search for a top-of-the-rotation starter.