You could be forgiven for forgetting that long-time Boston Red Sox’s left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is even a member of the Detroit Tigers now. The 29-year-old signed a five-year, $77 million contract back in November prior to the lockout, threw eight poor starts in April and May, and left in the first inning of the final one on May 18. Moved to the injured list with an oblique strain, Rodriguez made one excellent rehab start on June 9, striking out nine in four scoreless innings for the Toledo Mud Hens, and poof, like that, he was gone.
Rodriguez apparently went on the restricted list June 13, but no other information has been forthcoming. A New York Post report from Jon Heyman claims that the personal matter involved was “marital” in nature, but that doesn’t convey much. Of course, family is more important than baseball, and so on the one hand, it’s presumably a good thing that Rodriguez is focused there. On the other hand, his handling of the situation has the Tigers in a very difficult position.
As of August 1, Rodriguez will presumably no longer be eligible to return this season. Players on the voluntary restricted list are not paid, and if the issue involved prevents them from returning prior to the trade deadline, they cannot return at all from August 1 through October 31 unless they were on the list for a substance violation or a family emergency or bereavement exception. Those seem unlikely to apply here, though without any specifics at all, it’s difficult to say with any certainty.
Here’s the relevant paragraph from the CBA.
No Major League player on the Restricted List shall be reinstated during the period from August 1 to and including October 31, unless the Restricted List placement had followed a Bereavement/Family Medical Emergency List placement pursuant to Rule 2(c)(2) (Major League Bereavement/Family Medical Emergency List), had followed a Major League Paternity List Placement pursuant to Rule 2(c)(3) or had been made pursuant to the Major or Minor League Drug Treatment and Prevention Programs, or the Commissioner or the Commissioner’s designee has approved the reinstatement.
The situation is complicated by Rodriguez’s refusal to communicate with the club. In an informal press conference with beat writers prior to Wednesday’s matchup with the Cleveland Guardians, Tigers general manager Al Avila said that the club has reached out to Rodriguez and that he had not responded. Requests from Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic Detroit for information from Rodriguez’s agent, Gene Mato, have not drawn a reply either.
I asked if the Tigers were looking to see if there was any way that his contract could be voided.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 6, 2022
"I'm not going to get into that at this point," Avila said. "It's a private situation on his part, so I won't get into any of those legalities. https://t.co/vt2ohgo2CP
Technically, things could just go on this way. Rodriguez won’t be paid until he returns, but whether there is any remedy in terms of the Tigers’ asking to void the contract should he fail to return this season, or at least get in touch with an update, is unclear. The most important thing is that Rodriguez and his family come through this okay, but the lack of even a brief update from player to team, even via his agent, may become a real problem for the club as they try to find enough pitching to survive the rest of the season.
The Tigers, from AJ Hinch to Avila, have publicly been very supportive of Rodriguez over the past four weeks. But it’s hard not to wonder about the impact this could all have in the clubhouse whenever he does report. The Tigers are going to need some clarity in the coming weeks or they’ll simply have to regard one of their main free-agent additions as a lost cause for the rest of the season. For now, there appears to be nothing to do but wait and hope things turn out alright.