Aneury Rodriguez: Come Home, Wayward Son

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 10: Pitcher Aneury Rodriguez #62 of the Houston Astros gestures to home plate umpire Jim Joyce after getting ejected from the game for hitting Gaby Sanchez #15 in a MLB baseball game on April 10, 2011 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Astros won 7 to 1. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

Aneury Rodriguez, the once-Ray, has to stay on the Houston Astros 25-man roster, or the Rays will get him back. This makes us ask: Who is Aneury, and do we want him back?

Jason and the Roster Cuts
In 2009, the Rays had the typically fortunate burden of too much good pitching. They had James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson (today's opponent), Jeff Niemann, David Price, and - - at the bottom of the totem pole -- Jason Hammel. Altogether, the Rays had 6 pitchers out of options, so one of them had to go. The Rays knew this, the league knew this, and the public knew this.

So the Rays had to wrangle a less-than-perfect trade, sending Jason Hammel to the Colorado Rockies for Aneury Rodriguez, a minor league starter who, at that time, had not been above High A. Jason Hammel has since turned into a decent starting option, giving the Rockies 170+ innings in the last two years (NOTE: Hammel's fWAR is deceptively high because it uses FIP, which counteracts Hammel's high career BABIP and low career LOB% -- in other words, Hammel's FIP has never and may never be higher than his ERA over a full season).

The Rays massive depth hurt them, and they lost a good starter. That depth curse stung again last December when the Houston Astro's selected Aneury in the Rule 5 draft. We can still get him back, but do we even want him now?

The Prospects of Rodriguez
Well, thus far in 2011, the Rays wayward son has not pitched to expectations, coming out of the Astros 'pen for 4.0 innings of walks and runs. His season stats do not inspire early confidence: 11.25 ERA, 5.56 FIP, 2.25 K/9, and 6.75 BB/9.

Yeah, it's highly unlikely these stats will stay this way, but that may not matter. If Rodriguez can put together enough stinkers and bean enough players (whether intentional or not), the Astros -- likely NL Central cavern-dwellers -- may find themselves unwilling to hang on to Rodigruez.

But do we really want him back? He's making over $400,000 (quite a bit for a very young relief candidate in the minors), he wasn't particularly impressive in Triple-A last year, and the Astros have now started the ticking on his service clock.

Well, yeah, we want him back. He's still just 23, and though he wasn't dominant in AAA (4.04 FIP while starting 17 games and relieving in 10), he's got the potential to a valuable contributor (though perhaps in the bullpen and not the rotation).

At the same time, though, the main reason for wanting him back may boil down more to wanting something in return for Hammel -- rather than Rodriguez being worth more than his associated costs. And remember, taking Rodriguez back would mean either demoting someone from AAA, or demoting Rodriguez himself to AA. Also, the Rays would need to release someone somewhere.

There is a chance that the 'Stros give up on Rodriguez, attempt to give him back, but the Rays decline, and he passes into the Astros minors. If the young righty does get offered back to the Rays, would you take him back?

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