Yanks land an ace in Carlos Rodon -- and take another step toward ending their World Series drought

by Daryn Albert - After re-signing the top free agent position player in Aaron Judge, New York has added one of the winter's best starting pitchers.

MLB free agency grades: New York Yankees sign Carlos Rodon Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images 9:25 PM ET Bradford DoolittleESPN Staff Writer Close Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09 Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus Member, Baseball Writers Association of America Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association Two years and about two weeks ago -- Dec. 2, 2020 -- the deadline for teams to tender a contract offer to pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players was at hand. The Chicago White Sox did not tender an offer to Carlos Rodon , a pitcher they selected with the third pick of the 2014 draft. Rodon eventually re-signed with Chicago but not until Feb. 1, 2021, not long before that season's spring training was set to begin. You want to know how long it takes for an injury-riddled player to build up long-term value? The answer appears to be two years, at least for pitchers. All it takes are two straight healthy, All-Star seasons for two different teams in two different leagues. Rodon's non-tender journey came on the heels of the latest in a long string of arm-related maladies that seemed to have thrown his career irretrievably off track. In a 2020 season that wasn't very long to begin with, Rodon had shoulder problems and made just four appearances and posted an 8.22 ERA. Then he made a postseason appearance against Oakland, allowing two runs while failing to retire any of the three batters he faced. Then, for an eternity in the life of a baseball free agent, nobody wanted him. Well, look at him now. Editor's Picks Aaron Judge is back in the Bronx! But did the Yankees overpay? 8d Bradford Doolittle MLB free agency grades: Report card for every big offseason move 15m Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield 2 Related Rodon has strung together two monster seasons, drawing sizable Cy Young support in both campaigns, first for Chicago, then for the San Francisco Giants , while morphing from a human manifestation of a question mark into the ace he was slated to become when he was drafted so long ago. Over those two seasons, according to Fangraphs, only Corbin Burnes (12.0 fWAR) and Zack Wheeler (11.3) have outshined Rodon (11.1) and the gap is well within the margin for error when it comes to applying the WAR framework to pitchers. ESPN's Kiley McDaniel pegged Rodon for a five-year, $130 million offer in his free agent rankings , in which he slotted Rodon just behind Jacob deGrom as the second-best free agent pitcher available. McDaniel also wrote, "I still have Rodon a hair behind deGrom, but don't be shocked if the lefty is the pitcher in this class who draws a bidding war." As we've harped on again and again, teams have been generally more generous in both years and total value in free agency than most forecasters foresaw. Teams have favored longer deals with more tax-friendly annual values while apparently not caring all that much about the likely painful back ends of those deals. This isn't one team, or even a couple, but just how free agency has operated this winter, while throwing our old models for guessing at the eventual surplus value of a deal under the bus. Highlights from MLB free agency Money has been flowing this offseason, with some of baseball's biggest names cashing in. Takeaways from the winter meetings » Inside the WM's $1.6 billion spending spree » Judge is back! How do Yankees get better this winter? » Grading Mets' offseason spending » And it's great! If the money is there ... and it has to be there, right? ... then we can stop some of our actuarial hand-wringing over the financial terms of these deals and simply look at them as baseball moves. In terms of baseball moves, the addition of Rodon, at six years and $162 million , has given the New York Yankees a five-man base rotation in which every member of the quintet is capable of putting up a Cy Young-caliber season. Will they all do that? Probably not, and there is a lot of injury history there as well, not just from Rodon but also Luis Severino and, most recently, Frankie Montas . They'll still need additional depth and a strong bullpen. But there should be long stretches in which the Yankees can go Gerrit Cole , Rodon, Nestor Cortes , Severino and Montas over a five-day span. That's impressive. Rodon ended up with a longer deal than deGrom with less overall money and an AAV about $10 million less. He has less upside than a healthy deGrom would have over a full season, because nobody has more upside than a healthy deGrom. But for all of his long list of injuries, Rodon has generally been there to take his turn the last two seasons. Does that alleviate all injury concerns? Certainly not -- he's a pitcher and those injuries happened. But if Rodon is embarking on a nice stretch of healthy seasons, he wouldn't be the first pitcher to do that when he hit his 30s after struggling to get there in his 20s. Keep up with the MLB offseason Need to know what to make of the moves that shape the offseason? We've got you covered. Besides, while a six-year contract length is aggressive, if the Yankees can get three good seasons from Rodon at the $27 million average value, everything they get after that will be gravy. The only thing holding me back from giving the signing a "A" are the injuries, but the Rodon we've seen the last two years is more than worth this deal. The Yankees will likely be rubbing up against the second tier of tax penalties with this signing, so it will be interesting to see how aggressive they are for the rest of the offseason or if they look to move some money off the payroll to give them more wiggle room. In landing the top player on the market (Aaron Judge ) and one of the top 2-3 pitchers available, the Yankees are already hot stove winners. Alas, this much we know: The fans in the Bronx won't be satisfied with that or anything short of the end of the team's title drought. For now though, they can take solace in this: In landing Carlos Rodon, the Yankees have taken a considerable step toward ending that drought. Grade: B+