Family, familiarity and World Series sold free agent Eduardo Rodriguez on Diamondbacks

Dec 12, 2023, 6:47 PM | Updated: 10:09 pm

PHOENIX — Eduardo Rodriguez highlighted distinct reasons for picking the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency during his introductory press conference at Chase Field on Tuesday, and he started with family.

Rodriguez, 30, agreed to a four-year deal with a vested option to join Arizona, where he and his family can stay from spring training through the season. Keeping loved ones close was why he vetoed a midseason trade at the deadline from the Detroit Tigers to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a club listed on his no-trade clause. His wife and children had just moved to Detroit at the time, and he explained leaving them to play in L.A. did not work for his situation.

His other primary explanation for joining the Diamondbacks was to compete for a championship after watching their run to the World Series.

“I know they’re hungry for winning the World Series and I want to be part of it,” Rodriguez said. “I know how they’re preparing them … and I want to be part of that team that is gonna bring a World Series here.”

Familiarity with leadership also helped sell Rodriguez to Arizona. He met with the Diamondbacks at the winter meetings in Nashville last week for upwards of two hours, which general manager Mike Hazen called the longest player meeting he has had.

Manager Torey Lovullo opened the door to let Rodriguez and his agent Gene Mato into Hazen’s suite and gave the left-hander a bear hug. Rodriguez had a pre-built relationship with Lovullo and Hazen from the Boston Red Sox. Boston, with Hazen in the front office, traded veteran Andrew Miller for Rodriguez during the 2014 season, and the three were in the organization until Hazen and Lovullo headed west after the 2016 campaign.

“We had a good relationship, it was one that was built on trust and communication and honesty,” Lovullo, Boston’s former bench coach and interim manager, told Arizona Sports. “That’s who he is at his core. So when I got word that he signed and everything was official several days ago, I got a phone call from Mike saying that the deal has been done and we’ve landed Eduardo. I couldn’t get off the phone fast enough to call Eduardo to congratulate him.”

“He was in the dugout everyday, so that was kind of like having a teammate and now he’s going to be my manager,” Rodriguez said. “That was a good relationship. We were playing around, telling jokes, seeing him do his job, getting mad, being happy with the players, now we’re gonna see it in person as a manager. So we had a really good relationship over there and I know that was a big part of why I decided to come here.”

Rodriguez said he left the meeting telling his agent his priority was to sign with Arizona.

The signee put on the new D-backs home jersey for the first time on Tuesday with his family present along with Hazen, Lovullo, managing partner Ken Kendrick and team president and CEO Derrick Hall. He and his kids stepped onto the field he’ll call home come spring.

The Diamondbacks reportedly invested $80 million guaranteed to add the southpaw to their rotation, one that was an arm or two short during the postseason that ended with a World Series loss. That success, Hazen felt, put the club in a brighter light to land some bigger fish in free agency.

“I think being part of a winning organization, in terms of doing what we did in the playoffs, sort of sends your resume out there a little bit,” Hazen said. “I think knowing Torey, how he is as a manager and seeing the young players we have in our team, I would think that makes us a more attractive destination. We’ve always known our advantage of having our spring training and regular season and in the same city. We’ve seen that before and we’ll see it again for players who have families, and it’s so important to him.”

Hazen called the marriage a natural fit from what the organization needed and the player’s wants. He trusts Rodriguez will continue to produce into his mid 30s based on the veteran’s intelligence and the pitching infrastructure in Arizona headed by coach Brent Strom.

Rodriguez worked a 3.30 ERA in 26 starts last year in Detroit.

The lefty is still evolving, too, saying he is working hard to improve his slider which had a 39.5% whiff rate last year. Lovullo called Rodriguez an ultimate competitor back in Boston and is eager to see what a more mature version looks like up close.

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