August 11, 2022

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Rodón dominates in final start before Deadline

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SAN FRANCISCO — After walking off the mound for the final time in the Giants’ 4-0 win Sunday over the Cubs, Carlos Rodón exchanged hugs with a few of his teammates when he came into the dugout.

That was enough to raise a few eyebrows, given that the Trade Deadline is two days away. But Rodón set the record straight after the game.

“That’s just a normal thing,” Rodón said. “I mean, good outing, guys playing hard, and just relieved that I can finally go out there and pitch well.”

Though Sunday’s win clinched the series for San Francisco — and represented a welcome turnaround from the club’s 0-7 start to the second half — a somewhat bittersweet mood permeated the clubhouse after the game. With rumors swirling as the Deadline nears, it was all but impossible to ignore the fact that Sunday could have been Rodón’s last start as a Giant.

Sure, the Giants just took three of four from the Cubs, who sit near the bottom of the National League standings and are bound to sell at the Deadline. But San Francisco has a difficult path to a playoff berth despite being just four games back of the third NL Wild Card spot, and Rodón could be a hot commodity in a weak starting pitching market.

Rodón turned in a stellar audition for teams looking to bolster their rotations, tossing seven scoreless innings and holding the Cubs to just two hits. Rodón struck out 10 batters, compiling his sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season and the 18th of his career.

The value Rodón has brought to the Giants isn’t all about the numbers, though.

“I think his fire on the mound is pretty contagious,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Although I think what we saw today was perhaps a bit subdued version of Carlos, and I think that it’s possible that that version of him is best. Maybe not too low and definitely not too fiery, but something in the middle where he can kind of control the pace of the game like he did today.”

“Getting to know him and his strengths — what clicks, what he thinks about — it’s fun,” added Austin Wynns, who caught Rodón on Sunday and tallied two RBIs at the plate.

Rodón’s gem on Sunday came after a rough pair of starts in which the left-hander allowed 10 runs in 11 innings, raising his ERA by half a run. He was able to put that frustration aside as he mowed through the Cubs lineup, facing just two over the minimum en route to his ninth win of the season.

That ability to move on is part of what could make Rodón so appealing to buyers.

Rodón would become one of the top available starting pitchers, should the Giants decide to sell — and the team is likely listening to offers, per MLB Network insiders Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman. With the Reds receiving a haul from the Mariners in return for Luis Castillo, whom many considered to be the best available starter before he was dealt, that could further entice the Giants to trade their splashiest offseason acquisition.

The Reds sent Castillo to the Mariners in exchange for four Minor Leaguers, three of whom ranked within Seattle’s top five prospects, per MLB Pipeline. That is quite a lucrative haul, although Castillo has an extra year of control that Rodón may not have, if he chooses to opt out of his two-year, $44 million contract at the end of the season.

It’s a sellers market, and while Rodón may not fetch as big a return as Castillo did for the Reds, trading him could help the Giants improve their already-strong system.

The Giants sit in a difficult position at this point in the season. The division appears out of reach, as they trail the Dodgers by 17 1/2 games in the NL West, and they’re clinging to a .500 record after going 3-8 coming out of the All-Star break. But the Giants are close enough to contention where it may seem too rash to sell off the team’s expiring contracts and wait until next year.

San Francisco may be best served to consider both buying and selling. The Giants could explore trading impending free agents — like Rodón — in exchange for Major League-ready talent, which could allow them to continue making some sort of playoff push. That raises a key question: Could the Giants make it happen after dealing one of their best starters?

“I would never bet against any group of guys in that room,” Kapler said. “I feel a ton of confidence in them, and we’ve believed in them collectively and not with one individual leading the way. I think that’s the only way to think about it.”

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