Atlanta Braves: Reviewing the Richard Rodríguez Trade

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 23: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 23, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 23: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 23, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Richard Rodríguez was acquired by the Braves at the deadline to strengthen the bullpen for the playoff run. How has he performed since coming to Atlanta?

When the Atlanta Braves traded for Richard Rodríguez, most fans were thrilled because the bullpen had been an area of concern. Much like the Jorge Soler trade, the Rich Rod deal was not announced until after the trade deadline had passed.

Rodríguez served as the primary closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, sporting a line of 2.82 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 4.74 xFIP with 14 saves in 37 games.

He had struggled some leading up to the trade deadline, and there was some thought that he may have been using foreign substances on the mound. Fellow Tomahawk Take writer, Sam Peebles, looked at this possibility in this article.

Despite this, Rodríguez was a welcome addition to the Braves bullpen. How has that worked for the Braves since the acquisition?

The Bullpen gets Richer

Since coming to the Braves, Rich Rod has been used in a variety of ways. While he has not been used as a closer, like some may have liked, he has still been a solid weapon out of the bullpen.

As a member of the Braves, Rodríguez has a 1.08 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 5.69 xFIP, and 6 holds across 16 games. The FIP and xFIP are concerning, but he has been effective so far with the low ERA.

Maybe the biggest area of concern is the lack of strikeouts. As a member of the Pirates, he had a strikeout rate of 7.75 per nine. As a member of the Braves, it has dropped to 3.24 per nine.

The K% has dropped from 22.8% with the Pirates to 9.4% with the Braves. That is concerning.

His walks per nine have also went up, rising from a 1.17 walks per nine (3.4%) to a 2.16 walks per nine (6.3%).

He has been able to avoid trouble despite this negative regression so far, in large part, because opposing batters have been unlucky against Rodríguez. His .173 BABIP with the Braves is much lower than the .240 BABIP as a member of the Pirates.

Rodríguez is a pitcher who relies more on getting soft contact rather than overpowering hitters. The smoke and mirrors approach has worked just far, but he will probably need to get a few more swings and misses to avoid serious regression.

There is reason for optimism, as he has currently outpitched his peripherals thus far. His overall numbers in 2021: 2.29 ERA, 3.23 xERA, 3.06 FIP, 5.03 xFIP. This includes a 1.3 fWAR.

Rodríguez is talented enough to be a solid member of a major league bullpen, even if his peripherals are a bit concerning. As a guy who can pitch in any inning for Brian Snitker, he has proven to be a solid weapon. Hopefully, Rodríguez continues to be a solid option.

The Cost

The Braves traded both Bryse Wilson and Ricky DeVito to the Pirates to acquire Rodríguez.

Wilson is a former top prospect who had been up and down with the Braves over the last four seasons. His best moment coming in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers last postseason.

However, it appears that Wilson had been surpassed by a few pitchers within the organization, and the future was not as clear for him with the Braves.

He has started five games for the Pirates since the trade, pitching to an 0-3 record with a 4.32 ERA, 4.69 FIP, & 5.02 xFIP.

The Pirates will give Wilson the opportunity to pitch every fifth day, which is not something he was always guaranteed with the Braves. Hopefully, he can figure it out over the next year and become a solid member of the Pirates rotation going forward.

DeVito was the 23rd ranked prospect in the Braves system coming into the year. The twenty-two-year-old pitcher was teasing a breakout campaign through five games with the Braves High-A affiliate, the Rome Braves.

In those five games, he had a 2.66 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and a 3.10 xFIP. He was also showing a great ability to strike guys out, striking out 11.95 per nine with a 29.7% strikeout rate.

Unfortunately, an injury slowed him down after only 20.1 innings, and he has not yet made an appearance in the minors for the Pirates. Either way, he projects as a high-upside lottery ticket for the Pirates.

Hopefully both men carve out solid careers.

However, it has been a solid acquisition for the Braves. Richard Rodríguez has been solid out of the bullpen whether it is the 6th, 7th, or 8th inning. He also has two more years of control following the 2021 season.

Strengthening the bullpen is always ideal for teams making a playoff push. The Braves made their bullpen better by acquiring Rodríguez.