LOS ANGELES — Eduardo Rodriguez’s decision to invoke his no-trade clause and spurn a potential trade to Los Angeles didn’t just surprise the Dodgers or the Tigers, each of which went into the hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline with “every reason to believe” that Rodriguez would ultimately waive the clause to allow a deal to go through.
“I think it surprised the world,” said Mookie Betts, the left-hander’s teammate of five seasons while the two were in Boston.
Then again, Betts had reached out to Rodriguez earlier in the week. He’d known the Dodgers had expressed interest in the 30-year-old, hoping his 2.95 ERA in 15 starts this season before the deadline would help solidify a rotation that has the sixth-highest ERA in baseball this season (4.75).
“I texted him, I don’t care what you do,” Betts said. “If you come, cool. If you don’t, cool. Our relationship is not based off that. We’ll always be boys. I didn’t give a damn what he did.”
He didn’t hear back. Nor did Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who spent four seasons in Boston with Rodriguez from 2018-21.
“Absolute crickets,” Martinez said.
The Dodgers thought they had their deadline splash, until they didn’t
Betts eventually heard back on Wednesday afternoon, a day after Rodriguez nixed the potential deal and after Rodriguez threw six innings of two-run ball for the club that nearly traded him. The Dodgers had been on the left-hander’s 10-team no-trade list he’d negotiated into his five-year, $77 million deal he’d inked with Detroit two winters ago. In invoking the clause, Rodriguez cited a desire to remain closer to his family on the east coast (they are based in Florida). He reiterated to reporters in Detroit on Wednesday that it had nothing to do with the Dodgers or Los Angeles.
“Can’t do nothing but respect that,” Betts said. “Even if he said, ‘I just don’t want to become a Dodger,’ that’s fine with me. As long as he’s happy, he’s good, he’s feeling good. That’s all I care about.”
The left-hander missed two months last season while on the restricted list due to marital issues. During that span, he had no contact with the Tigers. He returned late last season and has been in the midst of a career year even after missing time due to an injury to his left index finger — well enough that the Dodgers figured Rodriguez, who has an opt-out after this season, would be a rental after this season anyway.
“I feel like we had a couple conversations (about) it,” Rodriguez told reporters in Detroit about the no-trade. “But the details of the trade wasn’t where I wanted for me and my family. I decided to stay here in Detroit.”
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Tuesday that in conversations with the Tigers and with Rodriguez’s agent, Gene Mato, the organization was never definitively told Rodriguez would waive his no-trade, but added that “we didn’t expect it at all.”
“We hadn’t known one way or the other,” Friedman said. “We thought with having a lot of his ex-teammates and guys he’s played with, our place in the standings, I thought we would be very desirable.”
That included former teammates like Betts, Martinez and outfielder David Peralta — briefly Rodriguez’s teammate with Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic — reaching out on the Dodgers’ behalf to try to gauge Rodriguez’s interest in a three-month stint in Los Angeles.
In a statement Wednesday, Mato said he negotiated the no-trade into the contract “for a reason,” and that Rodriguez “wants stability for his family.”
“We did our best to come up with a way to make it happen where everyone was comfortable with the outcome,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, we just ran out of time.”
Statement from Mato Sports Management pic.twitter.com/FoClZJPnh7
— gene mato (@genemato) August 3, 2023
Sorting through blame in what has now become a public ordeal is complicated. The Dodgers, operating under the belief that Rodriguez’s no-trade clause would be no problem, didn’t halt conversations for other top-end starters but only came away with Royals swingman Ryan Yarbrough to supplement earlier additions Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Kiké Hernández and Amed Rosario. The Tigers shared a similar belief, and missed out on moving their biggest trade piece during the deadline after agreeing to a deal with a team they knew was on his no-trade list. The deal hadn’t quite progressed to the stage where players (besides Rodriguez, obviously) were informed, but the sliding doors of a deal that wasn’t could have ramifications for two clubs that are seemingly headed in opposite directions this summer.
The Dodgers on Tuesday evening appeared content to move on. They had another baseball game, and another on Wednesday. Their window to add another high-end starter is closed, and they can only hope for internal improvements and health from here.
“(It’s) kind of surprising,” Betts said. “But you never know what somebody’s going through in their life, man. So you take their answers and life goes on.”
(Photo: Steven King / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)