Analysis: Eovaldi Cashes in With Red Sox

  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 18th inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Washington Post
Thursday, December 06, 2018

While baseball’s star-studded free agent market for position players continues to take shape slowly ahead of next week’s winter meetings in Las Vegas, and while the deep market for relievers remains largely untapped, the shelves are quickly selling out of high-end starting pitchers.

On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox agreed to a four-year, $68 million deal to retain right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, an indispensable and indefatigable part of the staff that led the team to the World Series title less than six weeks ago. Eovaldi, 29, has twice undergone Tommy John elbow surgery but made a strong comeback in 2018 and went 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in six appearances (four of them in relief) during the postseason.

“We’re very happy to have Nathan back with us,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in a statement as the deal was announced on Thursday. “He did a tremendous job for us last season, playing a significant role in helping us win the division and the World Series. His performance in the postseason was outstanding, both as a starting pitcher and as a reliever.”

The Eovaldi signing comes two days after the Washington Nationals locked up the winter’s consensus top starting pitcher, lefty Patrick Corbin, to a reported six-year, $140 million deal.

While the remaining stock of available starting pitchers is relatively weak — headed by lefties Dallas Kuechel and J.A. Happ and right-hander Charlie Morton — there continues to be a strong presence of impact starters available in trades. The New York Yankees have already pried lefty James Paxton away from Seattle, and former Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber (Cleveland) and Zack Greinke (Arizona) are also being shopped.

Eovaldi’s return to the Red Sox was perhaps the biggest slam dunk of this winter, as the defending champs had few other items on their offseason checklist, and Eovaldi had endeared himself to the team and its fan base forever with his remarkable, six-inning relief stint — on one day of rest — in the Red Sox’s 18-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series.

Manager Alex Cora credited Eovaldi’s effort with being one of the catalysts that helped Boston win its fourth World Series title in 15 years.

At the premiere of the Red Sox’ 2018 season highlight video, Eovaldi got the biggest cheers when his name was mentioned, with the crowd chanting “Bring him back!”

“Nobody’s going to remember who won that game. Everybody’s going to remember Nate Eovaldi,” Cora said.

The 2019 Red Sox, thus, will look much like they did in 2018, particularly in the rotation, where Eovaldi will join holdovers Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez is forming one of the top units in the game.

Eovaldi’s dazzling postseason run undoubtedly added tens of millions of dollars to his value this winter, but he is not without risk. Largely due to his elbow injuries and surgeries, he has made 30 or more starts only once in his career, and he sports a career ERA of 4.16. On the plus side, his odometer reads only 850 big league innings, and his fastball averaged 97 mph in 2018 and touched triple-digits in the postseason.

Boston earlier reached a $6.25 million, one-year contract with first baseman Steve Pearce, the World Series MVP. Remaining unsigned players who became free agents after winning the Series include closer Craig Kimbrel, left-hander Drew Pomeranz, right-hander Joe Kelly and second basemen Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.