LAS VEGAS — For the last three seasons, Nate Eovaldi has been the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter and rotation anchor. Though the 32-year-old righthander is a free agent, the Red Sox made a move in hopes of retaining him.
Prior to Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline, the Red Sox made a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer to Eovaldi, a proposal that he has until Nov. 15 to accept or reject. The team also made a qualifying offer to shortstop Xander Bogaerts but declined to make one to righthander Michael Wacha or designated hitter J.D. Martinez.
Bogaerts, who opted out of the final three years and $60 million of his contract, is certain to reject the qualifying offer while exploring interest in his services (and remaining engaged with the Red Sox). Eovaldi’s approach is less certain.
If Eovaldi accepts the qualifying offer, he will remain under team control for 2023, on a one-year deal or a multiyear contract should he and the Red Sox agree to one. (As of Wednesday night, according to major league sources, the Sox and Eovaldi had held some talks but were nowhere close to a contract.)
If Eovaldi rejects the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the Red Sox would receive a compensatory selection between the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2023 draft. At the same time, a signing team would have to give up an earlier-round pick (a second-rounder or second- and fifth-rounders), so the qualifying offer might limit Eovaldi’s market.
In 20 starts for the Sox in 2022, Eovaldi went 6-3 with a 3.87 ERA along with a 22.4 percent strikeout rate and 4.3 percent walk rate in 109⅓ innings. He missed roughly a dozen starts during two injured list stints, tightness in his lower back and neck/trapezius soreness. The injuries diminished his power arsenal, as Eovaldi’s 95.7-mile-per-hour average four-seam velocity was his lowest in a decade.
Still, even at lower velocities, Eovaldi carved the strike zone with a five-pitch mix, suggesting a baseline of a solid big league starter in the bottom half of the rotation. If his velocity bounces back, the 2021 season — in which Eovaldi was an All-Star and finished fourth in American League Cy Young balloting — suggests a higher ceiling.
The Sox acquired Eovaldi in a trade with the Rays at the 2018 deadline. He emerged as a postseason force that year and re-signed with the team on a four-year, $68 million deal that offseason. In 4½ Eovaldi is 26-18 with a 4.05 ERA.
Neither the decision to make a qualifying offer to Bogaerts nor to decline one to Martinez (who hit .274/.341/.448 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs, all his lowest marks in a non-COVID-compressed season since his swing changes after the 2013 season) came as a surprise.
It seemed possible that Wacha (11-2, 3.32 ERA, 20.2 percent strikeout rate in 23 starts) might get a qualifying offer after emerging as the Sox’ most consistent starter in 2022 after signing a one-year, $7 million deal in the offseason. But the Sox opted against doing so, putting the 31-year-old in an excellent position to receive the first multiyear deal of his career.
Bogaerts won the Silver Slugger Award as the top-hitting shortstop in the AL on the strength of his .307/.377/.456 line with 15 homers. It is his fifth Silver Slugger Award. Bogaerts joins David Ortiz (7), Wade Boggs (6), and Manny Ramirez (6) as the only Red Sox to win the award at least five times. He’s the fifth shortstop in MLB history to win at least five Silver Sluggers, joining Barry Larkin (9), Cal Ripken Jr. (8), Alex Rodriguez (7), and Derek Jeter (5) … The Red Sox announced that the mutual option for outfielder Tommy Pham had been declined, making the 34-year-old a free agent. Pham, who lives here, dropped by the GM Meetings to meet with his agents on Wednesday night. “Tell Chaim [Bloom] to sign me!” he said … The Red Sox added second baseman Enmanuel Valdez to the 40-man roster in order to prevent him from reaching minor league free agency. The 23-year-old acquired from the Astros in the Christian Vázquez deal hit .296/.376/.522 with 28 homers while driving in 107 runs in a season split between Double A and Triple A. He hit .237/.309/.422 with the WooSox following the trade … The team reinstated lefthanders Chris Sale, James Paxton, and Josh Taylor, righthander Tanner Houck, and outfielder Franchy Cordero from the 60-day injured list. The 40-man roster now has 37 players.