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Rangers go all in on upside with RHP Nathan Eovaldi signing

The Texas Rangers put the finishing touches on their complete starting rotation overhaul with the surprise signing of Houston native Nathan Eovaldi.
Credit: AP
Boston Red Sox's Nathan Eovaldi plays against the New York Yankees during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

DALLAS — It wasn’t Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, or Justin Verlander found under the tree to pair with Jacob deGrom but, as the holiday season started to wind down, the Texas Rangers shut down the remaining questions about their rotation by jumping back into the free agency market.

Texas took one more plunge into remaking their rotation by announcing that they had agreed to terms with 32-year-old right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on a two-year deal worth $34 million, with a player option for a third year.

Signing the ten-year veteran gives Texas an incredible amount of experienced depth, with rising arms right around the corner to provide further backup.

The 2023 starting rotation has all the makings of being one best in the league if everything pans out. After beginning the 2022 season with the likes of Dane Dunning, Taylor Hearn, and Spencer Howard in the rotation, the Rangers could begin the 2023 campaign with a massively improved top 5 that new manager Bruce Bochy could pencil in as follows:

  1. RHP Jacob deGrom
  2. RHP Nathan Eovaldi
  3. LHP Martin Perez
  4. RHP Jon Gray
  5. LHP Andrew Heaney

This configuration leaves RHP Jake Odorizzi – who was acquired from Atlanta early in the offseason – as insurance against an injury to any of the starting five and as a potential valuable multi-inning reliever out of the bullpen.

It is true that four of Bochy’s Five have a fairly extensive injury history, but that is exactly why the addition of Eovaldi makes sense for Texas. Should any of the above hurlers need to take a customary stint on the injured list, the Rangers can turn to a better quality starter in their stead rather than counting on the depth pieces to carry the load full time. 

Another boon for Texas is all five of the expected starters, as well as Odorizzi, have postseason pitching experience. Those playoff outings range from a single relief appearance for Heaney to a starring role in the 2018 World Series for Eovaldi, but having that background can be huge for a Rangers club who has essentially purchased a sparkling new rotation with the hopes of reaching October.

Eovaldi, who spent the last four and a half years in the Boston Red Sox organization, is not that far removed from the best season of his career. In 2021, he posted an 11-9 record with a 3.75 ERA over a full 32 starts on his way to an All-Star selection and a fourth-place finish in the American League Cy Young voting.

The Houston native will be entering his age-33 season, and saw a slight dip in velocity of his fastball from 2021 to 2022 – from 97 to 95 mph – but being able to utilize his secondary pitches will help him continue to be a dangerous arm on the mound.

Back and hip injuries contributed to Eovaldi’s issues in 2022, but the Rangers appear to have covered their bases, so to speak, with incentives for the hard-throwing righty to hit certain innings marks with a third-year player option dangled as a potential reward for the former Alvin High alum.

While Eovaldi didn’t match his career year last season, he still contributed six victories in nine decisions over 20 starts with an ERA of 3.87 spanning 109 ⅓ innings pitched for Boston. Over the last three seasons, Eovaldi’s bread and butter has been limiting walks as his 1.64 BB/9 rate ranks tops among American League starters.

Pushing all of their chips in on high upside pitchers with spotty injury histories seem to be the theme for the Rangers this winter. In the past, a more risk-averse Rangers front office might have stopped at deGrom – or, more likely gone straight to Heaney and stopped there.

As crazy as it sounds, the Chris Young-led front office has now acquired so much risk that they now have the depth to help mitigate it. With six proven starting pitching options, along with 2022 rotation staples such as Dunning, Glenn Otto, and Cole Ragans, Texas can soften the blow of seeing a deGrom or Eovaldi hit the IL for an extended period of time.

It’s an unusual but welcome sight to see the Texas Rangers, perennially known for picking up powerhouse batters and hoping for the best when it comes to pitching, now focusing on getting big name, high dollar, proven hurlers while spending until they’ve diminished the potential for disaster.

 Do you believe the Rangers have one of baseball’s best rotations with the addition of Eovaldi? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.

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