Rangers To Sign Nathan Eovaldi

6:37 p.m.: Eovaldi will be paid $16MM salaries in each of the next two seasons, Grant reports (on Twitter). The deal contains a $2MM buyout on the 2025 option.

6:09 p.m.: The deal guarantees $34MM, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). He can vest a player option for a third year.

6:08 p.m.: It’s a two-year guarantee with an option for a third season, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).

5:50 p.m.: The Rangers are in agreement with the free agent starter Nathan Eovaldireports Robert Murray of FanSided (Twitter link). The deal is pending a physical.

Eovaldi has spent the past four-plus seasons with the Red Sox. Boston first acquired the righty from the Rays at the 2018 trade deadline, adding the impending free agent for their playoff push. Eovaldi was excellent in 12 regular season appearances down the stretch, then added 22 1/3 innings of 1.61 ERA ball in the postseason. At year’s end, Boston rewarded him for his great finish with a four-year, $68MM free agent deal.

That contract looked shaky in year one, as Eovaldi posted an ERA just south of 6.00 in 2019 — a season in which he missed a notable chunk of action due to loose bodies in his throwing elbow. He righted the ship in the second season of the deal, though, posting a 3.72 ERA through nine outings during the shortened 2020 campaign.

Eovaldi followed up with maybe the best full campaign of his career in 2021. He made all 32 starts and posted a 3.75 ERA through 182 1/3 innings, striking out 25.5% of opponents against a 4.6% walk rate. That showing earned his first career All-Star selection, as well as a fourth place finish in AL Cy Young award balloting.

Unfortunately, injury issues cropped back up again in 2022. Eovaldi missed chunks of what proved to be his final season in Boston due to a pair of injured list stints. He lost time between June and July with lower back inflammation and missed most of August and September thanks to inflammation in his throwing shoulder. The pair of injuries kept him to 20 starts and 109 1/3 frames, although his production on a rate basis was around what we’ve come to expect.

Eovaldi managed a 3.87 ERA, striking out a slightly above-average 22.4% of opposing hitters. He walked a minuscule 4.3% of opponents while inducing grounders on 47% of batted balls he surrendered. Eovaldi isn’t the ace his 2021 fourth-place Cy Young finish might suggest, but he’s an above-average mid-rotation arm when healthy.

That production doesn’t come the way one might expect given Eovaldi’s power arsenal. He’s one of the game’s hardest throwers, averaging north of 97 MPH for much of his career. However, he’s never posted the elite strikeout rates one might imagine given that velocity. Eovaldi’s best trait is instead his ability to pound the strike zone. He’s walked fewer than 5% of opponents in each of the past three years; his cumulative 4.4% walk percentage since the start of 2020 is the second-lowest among the 120 pitchers with 200+ frames over that stretch (trailing only the 4.3% mark of Clayton Kershaw).

Eovaldi’s willingness to attack the zone has led to home run issues at times. He’s allowed homers at a higher than average clip in three of the last four years, including an elevated 1.73 homers per nine innings this past season. That’s the only red flag in Eovaldi’s recent performance track record but his health track record and age presumably gave some teams pause. He’ll be 33 in February, making him one of the older options in a deep class of mid-rotation starters available in free agency.

In addition to this year’s shoulder and back concerns, he has a history of elbow concerns. Eovaldi underwent Tommy John surgery in high school, then missed the 2017 campaign after undergoing the procedure a second time in August 2016. He hasn’t required any IL stints due to elbow concerns since the aforementioned 2019 loose body concerns. The back and shoulder injuries this past season might be a more acute concern, as Eovaldi’s average fastball velocity dipped from his customary 96-97 MPH range early in the season to around 94 MPH after his first IL stint.

Those injuries seemed to depress Eovaldi’s market. Chris Bassitt landed a three-year, $63MM deal headed into his age-34 campaign, while players like Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker secured strong four-year pacts despite less consistent performance track records than Eovaldi’s. Many of the free agent starters available this offseason landed stronger than expected deals, but Eovaldi’s guarantee exactly matches MLBTR’s prediction from the outset of the offseason.

Eovaldi’s camp was also working against the qualifying offer. He turned down a QO from Boston at the start of the winter, tying any signing team to draft compensation. That was also the case for Bassitt but didn’t come into play for pitchers like Walker and Taillon.

Texas has not shown much concern about losing draft choices to add quality talent via free agency. They surrendered two picks to sign Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last winter, and they’ll do so again this offseason. The Rangers already forfeited a draft choice to sign Jacob deGrom to a five-year deal earlier this offseason. That lessens the price they’ll have to pay in Eovaldi’s case. Texas already forfeited their second-highest draft choice in 2023 and $500K in international signing bonus space to add deGrom. They’ll be docked another $500K in signing bonus room and their third-highest pick next year for Eovaldi.

After the Seager and Semien splashes to bolster the lineup last offseason, the Rangers have thoroughly overhauled their starting staff this winter. Texas acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Braves within the first few days of the winter. Left-hander Martin Perez soon after accepting a qualifying offer, but that didn’t slow down Texas GM Chris Young or his front office. Since free agency opened, they’ve nabbed deGrom on the largest pitching contract of the offseason and brought in Andrew Heaney and Eovaldi on two-year guarantees.

Eovaldi adds another mid-rotation caliber starter to what now looks like a potentially fearsome Rangers rotation. deGrom headlines the staff, backed up by John Gray, Eovaldi, Pérez and Heaney. Odorizzi and Dan Dunning seems as if they’ll be pushed into depth roles, although there’s enough injury uncertainty with most of the top five it’s understandable Texas wouldn’t take its foot off the gas in pursuing outside help.

More to come.

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