Perception or reality: Wandy Rodriguez … underrated?

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News that the Rockies claimed Wandy Rodriguez off waivers and will have until Thursday afternoon to potentially work out a trade with the Astros for him has me wondering if the 32-year-old left-hander is underrated.

For the past week or so various prominent media members have been acting as if Rodriguez’s contract is a Vernon Wells-like albatross that no team in its right mind would possibly touch, but is it really that bad?

He’s owed $10 million in 2012 and $13 million in 2013, with a $13 million team option or $2.5 million buyout for 2014 that becomes a player option if he’s traded. So if the Astros simply decide to let the Rockies claim him for nothing it’s essentially a two-year, $25.5 million contract and if instead the two sides work out a trade that gets him to Colorado it’s a three-year, $37 million deal.

That’s certainly no bargain, but this offseason Jorge De La Rosa signed a two-year, $21.5 million deal while Carl Pavano and Jake Westbrook each got $16 million for two years. Rodriguez is slightly more expensive than those three veteran starters, but he’s also a better pitcher. In fact, among the 83 different MLB pitchers with at least 400 innings since 2009 he ranks 18th in ERA and 20th in xFIP. In other words, he’s been a low-end No. 1 starter or a top-notch No. 2 starter, posting ERAs of 3.02, 3.60, and 3.31 during that time.

Rodriguez has never had elite raw stuff and there’s clearly a widely held perception that he’s nowhere near as good as his numbers, yet his performance has consistently placed him among the top 20 or 25 starters in baseball and even a three-year, $37 million commitment doesn’t seem all that crazy in that context. Whether or not Rodriguez is capable of thriving while calling Coors Field home is another issue altogether, but in terms of his track record and contract it sure seems like perception has trumped performance in Rodriguez’s case.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.