Aside from Carlos Correa, whose agreed-upon deal with the Mets is on hold as his camp and the team try to sort out renewed concerns regarding the shortstop’s physical, Nathan Eovaldi is the highest-ranked player from MLBTR’s top 50 free agents who has yet to put pen to paper. He’s also the only unsigned player who’d turned down a qualifying offer.
A few teams have been tied to the former All-Star starter. Last week, Rob Bradford of WEEI reported the Padres, Angels and an unnamed American League East club were in the mix. It doesn’t seem that team is the incumbent Red Sox, as Bradford has suggested on a few occasions this offseason Boston doesn’t appear especially motivated to retain the right-hander.
The Padres have already made a couple rotation moves, re-signing Nick Martinez and adding Seth Lugo on a two-year pact. They’re presently slated for the final two spots behind Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. There’s still a fair bit of downside in that group, with neither Martinez nor Lugo having much recent track record as an MLB starting pitcher. Both Martinez and Lugo have the chance to opt out of their deals after the 2023 season (albeit only if the Padres first decline a two-year, $32MM club option in Martinez’s case). Darvish and Snell are each ticketed for free agency after next year, leaving Musgrove potentially as the only long-term rotation building block. Headed into his age-33 season, Eovaldi’s not likely to receive a significantly long investment, but he figures to command multiple years and could help solidify the post-2023 rotation in San Diego.
Anaheim already has a solid front five. Shohei Ohtani is the ace, while Tyler Anderson was brought in on a three-year free agent deal to add to the middle of the staff. Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Reid Detmers round out the group, with all three young southpaws having pitched well down the stretch in 2022. The Angels have frequently relied upon a six-man staff in the Ohtani era, though. Even if they’re planning to go with a five-man group to maximize Ohtani’s workload next year, there’s merit to bringing in another stable arm who can add some injury insurance.
Aside from San Diego and Anaheim, reports of known suitors for Eovaldi have been few and far between. The Yankees and Blue Jays were linked to him earlier in the winter, but those clubs have since signed Carlos Rodón and Chris Bassitt, respectively. New York now seems likely to be out on Eovaldi entirely, with Rodón joining Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes and Frankie Montas in the starting five. Toronto could fit for a rotation pickup on paper given the uncertainty associated with José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi/Mitch White at the back end. Yet they’re already projected for a franchise-record payroll, and general manager Ross Atkins told reporters over the weekend he believes the team’s “hefty lifting is done.”
If one assumes the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays aren’t the unnamed AL East team involved in Eovaldi’s market, that’d leave the Rays and Orioles. Baltimore is the better fit, with Tampa Bay having inked Zach Eflin to a $40MM deal to bolster an already quality rotation. Baltimore entered the offseason seeking starting pitching. Thus far, they’ve swapped in Kyle Gibson for Jordan Lyles in the veteran innings eater role but haven’t made the kind of mid-rotation or better addition most had anticipated. Baltimore has some rotation options — i.e. Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez — but it’s a group light on MLB experience.
A few other teams make some sense as speculative possibilities, albeit as imperfect fits. The Rangers have added four starters already this winter, though they could at least consider another arm to push both Jake Odorizzi and Dane Dunning into depth roles. The Twins have ample payroll space amidst a quiet winter. Rotation help isn’t a need per se, but adding Eovaldi would help guard against some of the injury question marks with the in-house staff. The White Sox may not have any additional spending room after their five-year commitment to Andrew Benintendi. If they do have some money to play with, though, another starter would fit on the roster. The Dodgers could look to fortify their rotation with Walker Buehler missing most or all of next season. There’s room on paper for Eovaldi but they’d have to exceed the luxury tax threshold, which they don’t seem eager to do, in order to add him.
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