Trading For Eovaldi: The Final Verdict

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By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB

Truth be told, when the Red Sox traded for Nathan Eovaldi, I wasn’t crazy about it. In fact, when I learned of the deal with Tampa, my initial thought was that he would be utilized out of the bullpen.

Mid-2016, Eovaldi had pitched a scoreless first inning for the New York Yankees, and then suddenly left the game due to injury. It was soon disclosed that he would be having his second Tommy John surgery, as well as surgery on his flexor tendon, which was torn completely off the bone. This meant that he would not pitch again in a major league game until 2018. So when the news broke of the trade with Tampa, it came as a surprise that he was already stretched out enough to be a active starting pitcher.

My primary trade candidate choice was Cole Hamels. Boston was already lefty heavy in it’s rotation, so the former World Series MVP wasn’t an obvious fit. His home numbers in Texas weren’t too appealing either. But as Eovaldi started to struggle after his first two dominant starts (pitched 17 scoreless innings), it was painful to see that the Chicago Cubs had struck a deal for Hamels. Especially when they were only going to pick up $5M of the hefty remaining balance on his lucrative contract. Hamels went on to post a 2.36 ERA the final two months of the season for Chicago.

For much of the final six weeks of the season, Eovaldi struggled to pitch deep into games. Walks became a concern. And he regularly gave up multiple runs per start, often occuring early in games. Red Sox fans had begun chirping that their president of baseball ops, Dave Dombrowski, hadn’t done enough to improve Boston’s chances of winning another World Series. As the weeks wound down, it wasn’t even a guarantee that the former Yankee would even be in the starting rotation once the playoffs started.

Eovaldi made 12 starts for the Red Sox after the July trade. He posted a seemingly respectable 3.33 ERA. However, he failed to pitch six full innings in nine of those starts. Often having to be pulled in the fourth or fifth inning when his control seemed to diminish.

Being a rental player, what ultimately matters most is how well they pitch in big games. In 16 innings, between two starts, and a relief appearance, Eovaldi did not give up a single earned run against the Yankees. Which made him an obvious starting option over Eduardo Rodriguez in the ALDS showdown with his former team.

In 2013, the Red Sox sent top defensive short stop, Jose Iglesias to Detroit in a three way deal for Jake Peavy, who was seen as a potential October impact player for Boston. Peavy went 4-1 down the stretch while with the Sox with a 4.04 ERA, but failed to notch a win in the playoffs. In fact, he surrendered seven earned runs against the Tigers in the ALCS. And was later removed from his game three World Series start after giving up two runs in four innings. Boston went on to win the championship anyway, but their July acquisition’s role was fairly minimal.

Fast forward back to the 2017 post season, the Yankees had not lost a single playoff game at home in the Bronx. They defeated the Twins in the wildcard, the Indians twice, and the Astros three times. They also defeated Oakland at home during this year’s wildcard. That home win streak ended last night, when Eovaldi continued his dominance over the Bronx Bombers. He pitched seven full innings of one run ball, and did what no other pitcher had ever done on this Boston pitching staff prior to October. He was credited for winning a baseball post season game. Something David Price has not done in 11 years as a big leaguer.

Last night’s win, which admittedly, I did not expect, put us in a prime position to defeat the Yankees either tonight with Rick Porcello on the mound, or in game five with Chris Sale getting the start.

When you consider the fact that outside of 2013, the Red Sox have only won one single playoff game since the Tampa series in October of 2008, Eovaldi did exactly what he was traded for. Thus rendering my verdict for this trade as a huge success, regardless of what he does going forward.






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