Which Nathan Eovaldi Did The Red Sox Sign?


In the first Boston Sports Syndicate Red Sox Column to be Named Later, I provide my take on the Red Sox resigning of World Series Hero Nathan Eovaldi, on the Hall of Fame candidacy of Roger Clemens and others, and look ahead to the upcoming MLB GM Meetings in Las Vegas. 

Photo courtesy of nesn.com

World Series Heroes Return

The Red Sox moved quickly to bring back both of their unlikely World Series heroes.  Steve Pearce signed shortly after dipping into the free agent pool, and this week Nathan Eovaldi cashed in on his postseason performance with a four year, $68 M contract – a hefty raise over the $2 M salary he earned in 2018.  The question is, which Nathan Eovaldi will the Red Sox get for the next four years?

Eovaldi certainly has the physical ability, with a fastball that can hit 102 MPH.  But his career has been marred by injury, and he has had TWO Tommy John surgeries.  Eovaldi’s career record is a less than stellar 44-53, with a 4.16 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  In 2018, Eovaldi sported an overall 6-7 record, with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.  The trend is upward, which is a good indication. 

A deeper dive into Eovaldi’s performance as a Red Sock shows a wildly inconsistent performer.  His feats in the World Series are now a part of Red Sox postseason lore, up there alongside Dave Roberts’ stolen base against the Yankees in 2004, and David Ortiz’s clutch at bats in 2004, 2007, and 2013.  Eovaldi’s first two starts after being acquired from the Rays were a sign of things to come.  He tossed a pair of gems against the Twins and the Yankees, picking up a pair of wins while allowing no earned runs in 15 innings pitched.  They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Eovaldi made the most of the opportunity.

However, Eovaldi hit on hard times in his next six starts, going 0-3 and allowing 17 earned runs in 22.1 innings for a hefty 6.85 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP.  Eovaldi skipped his next start and instead made one appearance out of the bullpen before returning to the rotation for his final three starts of the regular season.  Whether the time off was needed to work out mechanics or simply for rest, it certainly worked as Eovaldi returned to dominance with a 1-0 record and a 0.69 ERA before heading into his historic postseason.

So to ask the question again, which Nathan Eovaldi will the Red Sox get in 2019 and beyond?  The safe guess is, something in between, which is fine for 2019.  The Red Sox (for now) still have Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello at the top of their rotation, which slots Eovaldi into the fourth spot in the rotation.  They aren’t expecting him to be the ace of the staff, and while he received a significant raise in pay, the Red Sox can afford to pay a fourth starter $17 M per year.

Eovaldi will turn 29 before the beginning of the 2019 season.  The Red Sox signed him for what should be four prime years of his career.  He has tremendous upside with his natural ability, and if he can’t reach his potential, the Red Sox have the option to move him to the bullpen.  And one major check mark in Eovaldi’s column is the fact that he has proven that he can pitch both in Boston and in big situations.  And let’s not forget that he owns the Yankees.  The Red Sox may have overpayed for Eovaldi, but it was a good gamble and one that should pay off.

The Boys in the Hall?

The ballots for the 2019 candidates for the National Baseball Hall of Fame have been announced, and it has once again sparked the debate of whether Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Pete Rose are worthy of induction.  I don’t have a vote (yet), but if I did, neither Clemens nor Bonds would be on my ballot (Rose’s lifetime ban makes him permanently ineligible).

Many of the voters are softening on their stance against alleged PED users.  Clemens and Bonds have both been on the ballot for a few years, and each have steadily picked up more votes every year, though still well short of the 75% needed for induction.  What sets these two apart is the fact that both cemented their Hall worthiness before it is believed they began juicing.  And many will argue that everyone in that era was using PEDs, and that levels the playing field.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com
However, Rule 5 of the BBWAA Hall of Fame Election Rules, more commonly known as the “Moral’s Clause” clearly state:

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

The words integrity and character are the key points, and the stumbling blocks for Clemens and Bonds, and every other PED user for that matter. Clemens turned to PED use to resurrect a rapidly declining career after leaving the Red Sox in free agency to be “closer to home” and signing with the Toronto Blue Jays (clearly Clemens did not major in Geography at the University of Texas). While Bonds was acknowledged to already be one of the best players in the game at the time, he reportedly decided to start juicing and bulk up after all the attention that was focused on Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in their chase on Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Both actions speak to the lack of integrity and character flaws of the pair, and keeps me from feeling sorry when they fail to garner enough votes for induction.

A Rose, By Any Other Name…

And then there is the matter of Pete Rose.  Rose is banned for life for betting on his own games when he was the Manager of the Reds.  Whether he bet on his team or against is irrelevant.  Baseball was nearly ruined by the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.  After that, baseball set clear rules that gambling was expressly forbidden to protect the integrity of the game (there’s that word again).  These rules are posted prominently in every major league clubhouse.  Rose broke those rules, and then repeatedly denied the allegations.  Just because he has the most hits in major league history does not absolve him from breaking baseball’s cardinal rule, and that also keeps him from enshrinement in The Hall.

Vegas Baby!

Finally, this week brings the major event of the baseball offseason, the Winter GM Meetings in Las Vegas.  The meetings usually feature a flurry of trades and free agent signings.  The Red Sox still have a couple of holes left to fill on the 2019 roster, but don’t expect Dave Dombrowski to make any major splashes this week.

The Red Sox need to fill the closer role with the imminent departure of Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel reportedly is looking for a six year contract and wants to be the highest paid closer of all time.  This places his AAV somewhere in the $18 M range, and the bet here is that the Red Sox are not willing to go that long or that high for a closer who is in his 30s and has already logged significant innings.  The guess here is that Dombrowski will either try to fill the slot internally with Barnes or Brasier, at least in the early part of the season.  If the move does not pan out, look for the Red Sox to make a move before the July trade deadline.

I would not be surprised if the Yankees make a major move or two at the meetings.  The Yankees have virtually unlimited revenue to spend, and the Red Sox winning the World Series must be sticking in the craw of Yankee ownership.  Add to that the recent trades made by the Mets, and you can bet the mortgage the Yankees are going to do something to get the attention of the New York tabloids.  Will it be signing Harper or Machado, or trading for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, or all of the above?  The fun starts Monday.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Which Nathan Eovaldi Did The Red Sox Sign?
Which Nathan Eovaldi Did The Red Sox Sign?
Boston Sports Syndicate
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