Robert Murray of The Athletic reports that negotiations between the Red Sox and free agent pitcher Nathan Eovaldi are “intensifying.” Fancred’s Jon Heyman backs up Murray’s report, adding that he heard the current asking price is four years at $17 million per year.
It comes as no surprise that Eovaldi is using his strong 2018 campaign to attempt to command a four-year deal. The right-hander, who split his season between the Rays and Red Sox, posted a 3.81 ERA with a 101/20 K/BB ratio in 111 innings during the regular season. Eovaldi was aces for the Red Sox in the postseason, tossing 22 1/3 innings of 1.61 ERA ball, including a sterling six-inning relief performance in Game 3 of the World Series against the Dodgers, a game that lasted 18 innings.
Eovaldi is still on the right side of 30 years old, but banking on him to stay healthy over the course of a four-year deal is certainly a gamble. Eovaldi underwent Tommy John surgery in his junior year of high school, then underwent a second TJ surgery in August 2016. He missed the final seven weeks of the 2016 season, the entire 2017 season, and the first two months of the 2018 season. Eovaldi has only twice in his seven-year career crossed the 25-start threshold.
As I mentioned yesterday, however, the free agent market for starting pitching is weak now that Patrick Corbin is off the board. Eovaldi is on a short list of free agent starters that teams can point to and say he would make a noticeable impact. Those other pitchers include Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, and Charlie Morton. Most teams are going to have to upgrade their rotations via trade. Teams that can’t or won’t may just have to agree to those four years for Eovaldi and others.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.