David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports activities

Once I was assigned to write down about Nathan Eovaldi’s eventual free agent signing — this previous to the Winter Conferences — my greatest guess was that he’d be returning to his baseball residence for every of the final four-plus seasons. Boston had been a superb match for the 32-year-old right-hander, and the Chaim Bloom-run membership wanted him greater than he wanted them. Given the uncertainty of their rotation — to not point out growing strain to spend like a contender, not a small-market pretender — the Crimson Sox bringing again Eovaldi would have made all of the sense on the planet.

That didn’t occur. Final week, the Texas Rangers, a staff that really has been spending like a contender, inked the no. 15 participant on our Prime 50 free agent rankings to a two-year, $34 million contract. It was their third bold signing of the winter. Earlier within the offseason, Chris Younger and Co. jumpstarted the beginning rotation by signing Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million deal and Andrew Heaney to a two-year, $25 million pact. The cumulative $244 million expenditure was primarily based on want. Missing front-of-the-rotation high quality, Texas completed fourth from the underside amongst American League golf equipment in beginning pitcher WAR final 12 months.

The trio of newcomers be a part of a rotation that features Jon Grey and Martín Pérez (again with the membership after accepting Texas’ qualifying provide), with Dane Dunning, Jake Odorizzi (acquired in commerce from the Braves in November), and Glenn Otto serving as stable backup choices. Due to the additions, this is without doubt one of the deepest — and probably among the many most efficient — beginning staffs in both league.

Additionally it is one of many riskiest. Pérez and Heaney will likely be seeking to replicate career-best seasons, whereas Grey has incurred a number of injured checklist stints in every of the previous two years. Heaney likewise missed time in 2022, whereas deGrom’s well being historical past is well-documented. Arguably the most effective pitcher on the planet when he’s capable of take the mound, he did so simply 15 instances in 2021, and 11 instances in ’22.

Eovaldi hasn’t precisely been a pillar of reliability himself. After making 32 begins in 2021, his most for the reason that ’14 season, he took the ball simply 20 instances this previous 12 months. He landed on the injured checklist twice, first with a decrease again situation from mid-June to mid-July, and once more from mid-August to late September with proper shoulder irritation.

That Eovaldi returned to make two appearances within the last week was a constructive signal — ditto that he seemed stable in each — however on the identical time, nine-and-two-thirds innings is nine-and-two-thirds innings. Furthermore, as my colleague Jon Tayler identified when profiling Eovaldi for our Prime 50 rankings, these frames got here with lower-than-normal velocity. Eovaldi is a tough thrower, and in an effort to carry out at an optimum degree he must pump gasoline. That mentioned, his high-octane heater — the centerpiece of a repertoire that additionally contains a splitter, curveball, slider, and cutter — did nonetheless rank within the seventieth percentile for velocity. Whereas 95.9 mph wasn’t his ordinary 97-plus, it’s not as if he lacked energy.

Circling again to the Crimson Sox not re-signing the right-hander, it bears noting that it takes two to tango. Whereas cash talks, what number of potential acquisitions would have most well-liked Boston over the place they in the end landed? The Crimson Sox reportedly thought that they had a deal in place to signal Zach Eflin earlier within the offseason, solely to have him change course and conform to a three-year, $40 million contract with the close-to-home Tampa Bay Rays. This time it was Eovaldi, who hails from Alvin, Texas (Nolan Ryan’s hometown!, reportedly turning down a three-year provide (the precise phrases are unknown) and signing elsewhere. Corey Kluber, whom the Crimson Sox subsequently inked to a modest $10 million deal, primarily as an Eovaldi substitute, resides within the Boston space.

Boston having prolonged a $19.65 million qualifying provide to Eovaldi in November doubtless restricted critical suitors, and led many to take a position that he would re-up with the Crimson Sox. However whereas different groups demurred, the Rangers have been keen to relinquish their 2023 third-round decide — they’d earlier ceded their second-round choice to signal deGrom — in an effort to carry Eovaldi on board. As a result of they didn’t end under the luxurious tax threshold, Boston’s draft decide compensation gained’t come till after the fourth spherical.

Current first-round picks make the Rangers’ pitching depth much more enviable. Cole Ragans (2016) debuted this previous season, whereas Cole Winn (2018) spent the 12 months in Triple-A. Furthermore, their most up-to-date prime picks have been Jack Leiter (second general in 2021) and Kumar Rocker (third general in 2022), every of whom got here from a high-profile school program and could possibly be knocking on the door quickly. Not solely does Texas’ rotation look strong within the current, its future could possibly be even brighter.

However once more — and that is why depth issues — loads is dependent upon well being. Rocker is a Ranger fairly than a Met because of medicals, whereas Winn’s resume contains an ankle damage that has impeded his progress. Identical to their older and extra skilled contemporaries, they’ll should be hale and hearty most of the time in an effort to contribute to a big-league rotation. (Certainly, our personal Eric Longenhagen has Rocker ticketed to the bullpen primarily based on the right-hander’s historical past and 2022 Arizona Fall League look.)

A thought train: Over the previous two seasons, Eovaldi has had a 3.80 ERA over 291-and-two-thirds innings, and deGrom a 1.90 ERA over 156-and-a-third innings. Theoretically talking, which of these two performances would the Rangers want going ahead? When it comes to bang for the buck, it will presumably be the heavier workload for roughly half the fee. Conversely, if cash isn’t an enormous issue and the lesser innings load is supported by ample depth, would possibly they go for less-is-more?

The Rangers are clearly hoping that each one of their pitchers keep wholesome, and that features the one who selected Texas over a return engagement in New England. Greater than something, will probably be the important thing to him dwelling as much as his contract. As Tayler wrote in his preview, Eovaldi “has the stuff and observe file to make him a viable mid-rotation starter for a contending staff, assuming he can keep off the injured checklist.”

Is Texas a contender? Given the daring strikes they’ve made to improve their pitching employees, they’re a minimum of transferring in the fitting route. Once more, loads is dependent upon the soundness of the arms, significantly the incoming arms.

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