In a few short hours, hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi is set to make his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Red Sox, against the Yankees. As Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic notes, Eovaldi is in rare company in doing so. The 32-year-old Eovaldi told reporters yesterday that while the Red Sox did not approach him about a contract extension during spring training, he’d be willing to negotiate in-season.
Eovaldi’s current contract, a four-year, $68MM deal, was something of a new standard when it was struck with Dave Dombrowski 36 days after the team’s World Series parade. A veteran of two Tommy John surgeries who had limited innings in the years prior, Eovaldi was still able to score a fourth year given the buzz around him at the time.
Eovaldi has mostly answered health and durability questions since then, and has also posted career-best strikeout and walk rates. Still, he’ll pitch in the first year of a new contract at age 33. He’d be justified seeking a new contract at least in the range of the $23.67-25MM AAV achieved by Marcus Stroman and Justin Verlander this winter. The comparable Eovaldi will likely be pointing to age-wise: Hyun Jin Ryu’s four-year, $80MM deal with the Blue Jays, which also began with Ryu’s age-33 campaign. The two bear little similarity otherwise, as Eovaldi’s 96.9 mile per hour average fastball velocity ranked fifth among qualified starting pitchers in 2021.
Red Sox chief baseball office Chaim Bloom had avoided large and long-term contracts in his 29-month tenure with the club until signing Trevor Story for six years a few weeks ago. If Eovaldi does insist on four years and the Red Sox let him reach the open market, he could be joined by free agent starters such as Chris Bassitt, Mike Clevinger, Jacob deGrom, Zach Eflin, Clayton Kershaw, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove, Carlos Rodon, Noah Syndergaard, and Justin Verlander.