Free-agent right-hander Nathan Eovaldi signed a two-year pact worth at least $34 million with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. The deal includes a vesting player option for 2025 that could earn Eovaldi a maximum of $63 million over three seasons. While it’s to be determined if Eovaldi can clear the necessary thresholds to trigger that option, one thing is for certain: his departure highlights yet another by the Chaim Bloom-led Boston Red Sox.
The Competitive Balance Tax, or Major League Baseball’s version of a luxury tax, is often referenced only in relation to the penalties incurred with runaway spending. There are other components to the CBT that come into play on occasion, including as it relates to these Red Sox and the draft-pick compensation they’ll receive in return for Eovaldi and Xander Bogaerts (who signed with the San Diego Padres earlier this winter) leaving as free agents.
You see, the Red Sox finished last season with a tax payroll that was more than $4 million above the threshold, per the Associated Press. As Ian Cundall of Sox Prospects noted on Tuesday night, the Red Sox cost themselves significantly in next summer’s draft by not ducking under the tax line. Instead of receiving picks No. 70 and 71, they’ve gained picks No. 133 and 134. That’s a difference of essentially two whole rounds, assuming the standard 30 picks per. Accordingly, their signing bonus pool will be about $1 million smaller.
Now, these things are more complicated than looking at a spreadsheet after the fact and writing “the Red Sox should have traded so and so.” There are real-world dynamics at play. With that in mind, let’s revisit where the Red Sox were entering Aug. 2, the day of the 2022 MLB trade deadline.
The Red Sox came into that day with a 53-52 record, putting them just over the .500 threshold. They were 17 games behind the American League East-leading New York Yankees, but the installation of a third wild-card spot gave Boston hope. Indeed, the Red Sox trailed the Tampa Bay Rays (the final wild-card team both at the time and at season’s end) by just two games. Additionally, they were a game behind the Cleveland Guardians and a half-game back of the Baltimore Orioles, complicating a potential postseason run.
Was it reasonable to think the Red Sox would make a run? It depends on one’s perspective. Boston had won 92 games the prior season, and had reached the AL Championship…