The markets for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and left-hander Matt Strahm are “heating up,” according to Rob Bradford of WEEI. He speculates that one of them could sign prior to the Winter Meetings, which begin on December 4.
Bradford doesn’t specifically link any teams to the two hurlers, but it’s not surprising that they are generating lots of interest. Both of them have shown various levels of quality in the past but neither is likely to command a massive contract, meaning very few teams would be priced out of their bidding. Given that just about every team could use some extra arms, it makes sense that many of them would be kicking the tires.
Eovaldi is an established mid-rotation starter but has shown himself capable of pushing his production towards the front end. In 2021, he made 32 starts for the Red Sox, throwing 182 1/3 innings in the process. His 3.75 ERA might seem to be merely decent, but his 25.5% strikeout rate and 4.6% walk rate were both a few ticks better than average. Advanced metrics felt he deserved much better, with his 2.79 FIP almost a full run better than his ERA. FanGraphs wins above replacement, which is FIP-based, gave Eovaldi 5.7 on the season. That was the third-highest tally among all MLB pitchers that year, trailing only Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler.
However, he’s not coming off the ideal platform year, as back and shoulder injuries limited him to 20 starts and 109 1/3 innings in 2022. He kept his ERA down to 3.87 but his velocity was down in the second half and his strikeout rate dropped to 22.4%. This isn’t the first time injuries have been a concern, as he’s twice had Tommy John surgery and also had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in 2019. He’s also turning 33 in February and has been tagged with a qualifying offer, tying him to draft pick compensation. Those factors will put a damper on his market, with MLBTR predicting a two-year, $34MM contract. The free agent market has aces like Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodon, but they are all likely to command nine-figure deals. The next tier features many mid-rotation options like Chris Bassitt, Jameson Taillon, Taijuan Walker and others, but Eovaldi is one of the more interesting upside plays in that group.
As for Strahm, he’s proven himself to be a capable left-handed reliever, which is often more than enough to garner free agent interest on its own. But he’s also hoping to find an opportunity as a starter this offseason, which could expand his market even wider. He hasn’t made multiple starts in a season since 2019, but Michael Lorenzen hadn’t made more than three starts in a season since 2015 when he set out to free agency looking for a starting gig and signed a one-year, $6.75MM deal with the Angels a year ago.
Strahm has a somewhat similar profile and could potentially secure himself a deal in that range, though it’s not a guarantee he’ll take that path. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported today that Strahm is more likely to secure a bullpen job given the weakness of the free agent market in that department. As Rosenthal points out, the other southpaw relievers like Taylor Rogers, Will Smith and Brad Hand all had concerning performances in 2022, while Matt Moore was great but after many poor seasons prior to that. Those factors could lead to Strahm getting a nice offer to be a team’s primary bullpen lefty, which might be tempting enough that he forgoes his plan to jump into a rotation again. He posted a 3.83 ERA in 44 2/3 innings this year for the Red Sox, striking out 26.9% of batters faced while walking 8.8%.