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Yankees Sign Former Pirates, Braves Reliever to Minor League Deal

Rodríguez posted a 2.94 ERA in 64 games last season, pitching for the Pirates and Braves.

The Yankees have had plenty of success recently snagging right-handed pitchers that have a past in the Pirates organization.

Could this signing be the next move that pans out at the big-league level?

New York has signed reliever Richard Rodríguez to a minor league contract, sending the right-hander to the Florida Complex League Yankees, one affiliate below Low-A Tampa. 

News of the signing circulated on social media on Wednesday, but according to transaction pages on MLB.com, Rodríguez agreed to his deal with New York back on June 21. He was activated by the FCL Yankees on Monday and is now listed on their active roster.

Rodríguez has five years of MLB experience under his belt. He debuted with the Orioles back in 2017, spending the next three-plus seasons in the Pirates' bullpen. In 2021, he was traded from Pittsburgh to the Braves. He didn't factor into Atlanta's bullpen during their World Series run last fall.

Over those five years, Rodríguez has posted a 3.28 ERA (in 228 relief appearances), striking out 230 batters in 228 innings pitched. He recorded 14 saves with Pittsburgh before he was dealt last summer, pitching to a 2.82 ERA in 38 outings in a Pirates uniform to start that campaign.

The reason Rodríguez hasn't pitched in 2022 is he was suspended 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He was a free agent at the time. Atlanta elected not to tender him a contract after the 2021 season.

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As much as this seems like an inconsequential addition, New York has a tremendous track record in recent years when it comes to former Pirates pitchers. Just under a year ago, the Yankees sent two prospects to the Pirates for right-hander Clay Holmes. Since then, Holmes has blossomed into one of the best relievers in the sport—he's allowed just two earned runs all year in 2022 after pitching to a 5.57 ERA over four years in Pittsburgh. New York has also acquired starters Gerrit Cole (in free agency) and Jameson Taillon (via trade), who began their careers as top-ranked prospects with Pittsburgh.

Rodríguez is his own situation and it goes without saying, he's a long way away from producing in New York's bullpen down the road. Certain numbers—like his strikeouts—dropped off a cliff when he was traded from Pittsburgh to Atlanta last summer and his inability to limit hard contact (91.5 average exit velocity in 2021) is a red flag as well.

Still, it can't hurt to take a flier on a pitcher that has some upside based on some of his numbers out of the bullpen these last few years. Who knows what pitching coach Matt Blake and the organization's pitching department can bring out of Rodríguez if he ends up sticking around and climbing through the system. 

The 27-year-old isn't the first veteran arm that New York has signed to a minor league deal this year either. Former Yankee Shane Greene has been pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre along with ex-White Sox reliever Jimmy Cordero. Former All-Star starter Danny Salazar is also currently in the Yankees organization after signing a minor league deal in May, although he was placed on the 60-day injured list last month.

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