Rangers sign Nathan Eovaldi to multiyear deal, providing rotation depth and flexibility

When you ask Chris Young about the pitching move, which has seemed like a weekly occurrence this offseason, he’ll tilt his head slightly, give a half-smile, and offer the cliché of old. pitching.”

No more cliche here. It is an operation instruction.

On Tuesday, the Rangers added a rotation that looked complete 10 days ago. But because it’s the spirit of the season, they made some room. The newest addition is Nathan Eovaldi, one of only two major leaguers to ever come out of Alvin High School outside of Houston. The other is Nolan Ryan.

“Rangers” and 32-year-old Eovaldi have agreed on a two-year contract, the club reports. It is worth $34 million in guaranteed money, two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations said The Dallas Morning News. The deal also includes performance bonuses and a vesting option for 2025 that could raise the maximum value to $63 million. The Rangers must waive Eovaldi’s third-round draft pick after he turned down Boston’s $19.65 million offer. The Rangers will have second- and third-round picks for the second year in a row. They would lose their second rounder for Jacob deGrom. To make room on the 40-man roster, Texas designated RHP Nick Mears for assignment a week after claiming him off waivers from Pittsburgh.

The price these days, though, for trying to go from 102 losses in two years to a playoff contender. Well, that and about $845 million, which is what the Rangers have set aside in free agent contracts since the end of the 2021 season. Under Eovaldi, their payroll for luxury tax purposes will increase to $216 million, $45 million more than ever before. There’s still $17 million under the tax cap, but hey, there’s still at least one outfielder to add.

A day ago, that sentence will be read. To add, the fielder and bullpen help. But this is where the signing of Eovaldi could serve a dual purpose. It allows the Rangers to continue to improve the quality of the rotation, add insurance to its biggest possible flaw (durability) and also strengthen the middle of the bullpen. That’s a lot of layers.

“I am excited that we have added another outstanding pitcher to our rotation in Nathan Eovaldi,” Young said in a statement Tuesday night. “Nathan has quality stuff and an unmatched work ethic, and he will bring a veteran presence to the staff. The depth of our starting pitching staff will be a real asset for the 2023 Texas Rangers.”

Eovaldi, who spent four more years with Boston, offers more rotation in what has been an offseason theme: hard fastballs, piles of strikeouts and potential injury risk. While his fastball has dipped below 97 mph the last two years, it still averaged 95.7 mph in 2022. And he’s using a variety of secondary stuff more often, potentially making the fastball play up a bit.

He also has pitched more than 150 innings twice in the last eight seasons. Injury risk increases, as it does with de Grom, Andrew Heaney and, based on 2022, John Gray. Another thing Young will tell you. There is some risk associated with all pitching. And usually. The higher the potential reward, the higher the risk.

The addition of Eovaldi to de Grom, Heene, Gray and Martin Perez once again put the Rangers on par with the best projected rotations in the AL. When New York signed Carlos Rodon, the Yankees’ projection jumped to 15.7, according to Fangraphs. With Eovaldi, Rangers are 14.7. For reference, the Rangers’ rotation averaged 5.8 WAR in 2022; Houston led the majors with 19.0. Of course, that was before the Astros lost Justin Verlander.

WAR predictions are fun but mean nothing. Even with some decline in velocity over the past two years, he’s still throwing harder than Jake Odoritz, who the Rangers received as a gift from Atlanta to start the offseason and who will likely be the odd man out. . Eovaldi strikes out more batters and allows fewer walks than Odorizzi. These are good trends.

It also means Odorizzi could potentially slide into the bullpen as a multi-hit option to bridge the gap with Jonathan Hernandez and Jose Leclair. Throw Matt Moore, still on the market, back into the mix and you have a left-handed option for the role as well. Moore, a former starter, had a nice transition. Perhaps Odorizzi, who has only made one light appearance since 2013, can, too. If Moore decides to go elsewhere in this strong market, the Rangers at least now have cover in the form of Odorizzi. Also: If one of the starters is injured, the Rangers have an experienced depth option on hand.

It also puts this group on the outside with Dane Dunning (who is recovering from hip surgery), Glenn Otto, Cole Ragans and Cole Wee. More depth. Or possibly inventory to be used to address the other remaining need — a left fielder, perhaps via trade. Arizona still has some depth at the position. Maybe that makes a run at Pittsburgh’s Brian Reynolds even more feasible. Or, hey, as long as Ray Davis is throwing money around, David Peralta could be a good free agent since Michael Conforto chose San Francisco over the Rangers.

The thing is, the addition of Eovaldi gives the Rangers more depth and more options. Flexibility is nice. And it exists because Chris Young and his staff made the old baseball cliché their operating manual.

What’s next for the Rangers offseason after Michael Conforto lands with the Giants?

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