Noah Syndergaard probably wasn’t a great option for the Red Sox in free agency, as Boston might prefer a safer source of innings alongside the likes of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta in 2022.
But Syndergaard reportedly agreeing to a one-year, $21 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday inherently has ramifications for Boston’s pitching search. If nothing else, there’s one less starter available for the Red Sox to consider. And at some point, the game of musical chairs will intensify.
Perhaps the most significant trickle-down effect, from Boston’s standpoint, revolves around the cost, as the Halos ponied up a rather exorbitant amount of money — in addition to a draft pick — for a starter who’s logged just two innings since the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery and ensuing setbacks.
Syndergaard was somewhat of a unicorn on the open market, based on his age (29), upside (an All-Star and eighth in Cy Young voting in 2016), stature (6-foot-6, 242 pounds) and repertoire when healthy (high-90s fastball). And the one-year nature of the deal mitigates much of the risk, since the Angles won’t be saddled with an albatross contract long-term if the experiment goes south.
But the hard-throwing right-hander blowing past the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer extended by the New York Mets — during the early stages of free agency, no less — still is notable, in that it seemingly reflects how the current market views high-upside pitchers who are attainable on short-term pacts.
The Angels didn’t bat an eye at offering a hefty salary on top of relinquishing draft compensation. Will other clubs follow suit for comparable arms, in turn expediting negotiations across Major League Baseball and possibly further impacting the Red Sox’s pitching pursuit?
Heck, the Angels might even dip their toes back into the pool sooner rather than later.
Syndergaard’s deal all but guarantees Justin Verlander will reject the qualifying offer he received from the Houston Astros, for instance, as it’s now fair to assume the market for the latter’s services will be even more robust than initially anticipated. Verlander has pitched just six innings since 2019 due to his own Tommy John surgery, and while he’s nearly a decade older than Syndergaard, the two-time Cy Young Award winner also has a more extensive track record of sustained major league success.
And what about Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodón, two pitchers who didn’t receive qualifying offers? They’re admittedly at very different points in their respective careers, but both come with some level of injury uncertainty. The Angels’ sense of urgency in nabbing Syndergaard could bode well for pitchers who are considered free agency “wild cards,” for teams might be hesitant to drag their feet deep into the offseason and thus risk missing out on impactful additions.
This isn’t to say front office executives will throw caution to the wind and suddenly make hasty investments, especially with MLB’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1. But there’s always the potential for a high-profile signing to serve as a leaguewide springboard, and the Red Sox, among others, already were forced to pivot Monday when Eduardo Rodriguez reportedly agreed to a five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers worth up to $80 million.
Basically, any deal involving a starting pitcher has the potential to impact Boston for as long as Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. explore that particular market. So, Syndergaard’s deal is worth noting, even if the Red Sox didn’t target him, specifically, or ultimately don’t have plans to pursue hurlers of a similar ilk. It’s simple supply and demand.