Instead, Rodriguez nixed the agreed upon trade.
And the Tigers ended up with nothing.
“I’m not going to share exactly the conversations revealed to me,” Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said Tuesday. “I’m not going to share exactly what we said. Just know that we were talking throughout about possible destinations, and it didn’t work out in the end. I have to leave it at that.”
The Tigers were prepared to trade Rodriguez, a left-handed starting pitcher, to the Dodgers before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline. The Dodgers were prepared to send a few prospects to the Tigers in return. Both teams worked hard to meet certain contractural demands from Rodriguez in the process. The trade was about to happen, but for personal reasons involving his family, Rodriguez killed the deal by invoking his 10-team no-trade clause, which included the Dodgers.
The Tigers learned of Rodriguez’s decision less than an hour before the deadline.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters Tuesday. “We hadn’t known one way or the other. 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.
“Obviously for family reasons; we never got a chance to talk to Eduardo. But we talked to his agent (Gene Mato) numerous times. We respect that he had his right and he exercised it. Obviously would’ve loved for him to join what we have going here, but it’s hard for us to argue with family reasons.”
Both the Tigers and Dodgers believed Rodriguez would waive his no-trade clause in pursuit of a World Series championship, just like Lance Lynn (Dodgers), Max Scherzer (Texas Rangers) and Justin Verlander (Houston Astros) in recent days.
It’s common for players to waive no-trade clauses.
“This organization gave him that right to have a limited no-trade clause,” Harris said, “so he shouldn’t be the villain in any of this stuff.”
“It was an unknown at that point,” Friedman said, when asked if the Tigers or Rodriguez’s agent ever promised the no-trade clause would be waived. “We were just banking on the fact that, with former teammates, there was every reason to believe he would, from various conversations. But nothing definitive.”
In the end, Harris did not trade Rodriguez — arguably the franchise’s best trade chip since Nick Castellanos in 2019 — before Tuesday’s deadline. He will stay on the Tigers’ roster for the next two months and can exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after 2023 World Series to become a free agent.
The Tigers, ultimately, failed to add important prospects to their rebuild.
“There were some contractual headwinds that influenced his market,” Harris said. “There were a couple of terms in his contract that disqualified a lot of markets from pursuing him. We were working with the market that we had with Eduardo. We were communicating with Eduardo in-person, via text and on the phone. At the end of the day, we reached an agreement on Eduardo that he was not comfortable with.”
The 30-year-old signed a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers — under former general manager Al Avila — in November 2021. The Tigers fired Avila in August 2022 and replaced him with Harris as president of baseball operations in September 2022.
In 2023, Rodriguez has posted a 2.95 ERA with 21 walks (6% walk rate) and 91 strikeouts (25.9% strikeout rate) across 88⅓ innings in 15 starts. He had a 0.43 ERA in six starts from April 12 through May 10 and looked like an early candidate for American League Cy Young.
After a 2.13 ERA in his first 11 starts, Rodriguez spent 36 days on the injured list — from May 29 through July 4 — with a ruptured pulley in his left index finger. He made one rehab start in Triple-A Toledo, returned to the Tigers on July 5 and logged a 5.66 ERA in four starts leading up to the trade deadline.
“The (front) office did a ton of work,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It’s amazing how much work goes on behind the scenes. Some deals work, some deals don’t. I’ve talked to Eduardo throughout the entire stretch here, once he got healthy again. We got a great relationship. He’s confided a lot of stuff in me. And then the deals are done by the office.”
After the World Series, Rodriguez is expected to leave three years and $49 million on the table, seeking a significant raise in free agency, unless the Tigers negotiate a contract extension.
The Tigers and Rodriguez haven’t had formal talks about a contract extension. Conversations about a contract extension probably won’t happen until the regular season ends because the Tigers want to gauge his pending opt-out decision.
“It’s not fair for me to comment on that,” Harris said. “We are having conversations with a lot of our players all of the time. The nature of those conversations, I think, should remain confidential.
“If we have news to share on those conversations, we will be the first to share it with you guys. Not about hiding the ball at all. It’s just more about protecting confidential information between different clubs and us and our own players.”
There were difficulties trading Rodriguez for equal value from the beginning of any negotiations because of his opt-out clause. The Tigers needed a large-market club, like the Dodgers, to absorb the risk.
Contending teams viewed Rodriguez as a three-month rental with additional risk. Here’s why: If Rodriguez were to suffer an injury, he could opt into the final three years (and $49 million) of his contract.
But the Tigers entered trade negotiations with a high asking price for Rodriguez. Some postseason contenders, primarily small- and mid-market clubs, were turned off by the Tigers’ high asking price for Rodriguez, considering the opt-out clause, which immediately limited the interest from around the league.
The Tigers maintained their high asking price.
The Dodgers emerged Monday night as a trade partner.
When the Dodgers trade fell apart, though, the Tigers didn’t have anywhere to turn without giving away Rodriguez for an unfavorable return, and Harris refused to trade Rodriguez for players he didn’t want.
“We came into this deadline wanting to be active, but not in a position where we felt like we had to move anybody,” Harris said. “We don’t ever want to be in a position where we feel like we have to move anybody. We don’t want to be in a position where we have to move players for spare parts.”
Rodriguez, an eight-year MLB veteran, is scheduled to start for the Tigers on Wednesday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
He wasn’t in the clubhouse after Tuesday’s loss to answer questions about his decision to nix the Dodgers trade. He left PNC Park, returning to the team hotel, during Tuesday’s game to prepare for Wednesday’s start.
“If the consolation prize for not getting that deal is we get one of the best left-handed starters in baseball on the mound every five nights, sign me up for that,” Harris said. “We’re excited to get Eduardo back. He’s been a very powerful mentor for some of our young starters, and he’s going to give us a great chance to win every five days.”