In an about-face from an earlier report, it appears one of the Red Sox’ best starters is destined to reach free agency at season’s end after all. Right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi was previously thought to be open to mid-season extension talks, but WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that Eovaldi has no desire to discuss contract matters during the season. Bradford adds that there is an expectation the righty’s camp will be in contact with the team after the 2022 campaign concludes.
It’s commonplace for players in walk years to halt extension talks after Opening Day— look no further than the division rival Yankees for recent evidence of that— though it registers as a mild surprise that Eovaldi’s self-imposed deadline has come and gone without much talking at all. Eovaldi is coming off the finest season of his career: a 182-inning showing of 3.75 ERA ball with elite command (4.6% walk rate), Cy Young votes, and a bevy of underlying metrics that indicate his performance was even better than his ERA lets on. With just one season to go before a healthy payday awaits the righty in free agency, however, it’s possible Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and the front office didn’t see the cost upside in writing up a new contract now.
Alternatively, the Red Sox front office may have simply been too preoccupied post-lockout trying to assemble a team with playoff aspirations. Though the club did kick the tires on extensions with franchise players Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, neither discussion got very far. The front office engaged sophomore pitcher Garrett Whitlock in extension talks, agreeing to an extension this past Sunday, though that’s a value play that was unlikely to be afforded in the veteran Eovaldi’s case. Due to either consistent high-end performance or financial upside it’s easy to see why extension talks were prioritized in all three of these cases over the one with a 32-year-old pitcher.
With Eovaldi all but certain to reach free agency, he’ll join a group teeming with upside (and for the Red Sox, potential replacements). Assuming some opt-outs are exercised and some player options are not, the 2022-23 free agent market stands to contain elite names like Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw. With more than $100MM worth of commitments likely headed off the books after the season, the Red Sox should have no shortage of options to explore this offseason, be it by re-upping some familiar faces or by inviting some new ones into the fold.