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Scattered thoughts on the Nathan Eovaldi deal

It’s good, even with some concerns.

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox - Workout Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In case you somehow missed it, the Red Sox crossed off what seemed to be the biggest item on their to-do list, re-signing Nathan Eovaldi. There is still a physical that is holding up this deal from being official, but it’s pretty much done. The World Series hero is coming back on a four-year deal reportedly worth $67.5 million in total. There’s a lot of different angles from which we can look at this deal, so let’s dust off the ol’ “Scattered Thoughts” format to quickly hit on some bullet points for everything relating to the latest piece of news from the Red Sox this winter.

  • So to start off, I’m pretty excited about this! I know the possible downfalls, and we’ll certainly get into those, but too often I find myself starting to think about downsides and payroll efficiency and things of that nature. Those matter to baseball teams, of course, and often more than we’d like. That being said, we watch baseball to enjoy ourselves, and I enjoy watching Nathan Eovaldi dammit. I’m going to enjoy the hell out of seeing clips from the 2018 playoffs every time he pitches. I’m going to enjoy national broadcast crews talking about his domination of the Yankees when those two teams inevitably play 50 Sunday Night Baseball games. I’m going to enjoy watching him do things like this.

Hot damn! Eovaldi is fun, plain and simple.

  • There’s also the neat little fact that he also helps the team in a tremendous way. Prior to this signing being official, the Red Sox had four good starters in Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez. After that, in terms of internal options it was one of Steven Wright, Brian Johnson or Hector Velazquez for the fifth spot. That wasn’t ever really going to work. They needed another starter, and Eovaldi was the most logical fit even if you throw out his history with the team. He has relative youth (he turned 29 right at the start of spring training), he has big-time stuff, a recent track record of success and wasn’t going to cost as much as someone like Patrick Corbin. There were fine Plan B’s on the free agent market like Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ, among others, but Eovaldi always made the most sense there. Trades were also another possibility, but it seems like the Red Sox are in a position where spending money is preferable to trading prospects as they try to replenish their farm while still doing everything they can to win now. Eovaldi filled a big hole on this roster, and it just so happened to be the hole that was created by his entering the free agent market.
  • So, we have to talk about the downsides as well. Like I said, they exist. In fact, I think looking at this from strictly a business perspective this is probably something of a slight overpay. As great as Eovaldi was for the Red Sox down the stretch and particularly in October, he doesn’t have a huge track record of success. Prior to 2018 the righty had just one year with an ERA+ of at least 100, and he’s also only had one season in his career in which he made 30 starts. Which, obviously brings us to the second issue of health. Eovaldi has had two Tommy John surgeries, and that’s enough to make one worry about his health. When you throw in the massive workload from this fall, the concern only increases. The good news is Alex Speier wrote why the two Tommy Johns aren’t as big of a worry as you might thing, but there’s still going to be some breath-holding over here.
  • While that is certainly a legitimate cause for concern, it’s also part of the reason I’m happy they made this move. Again, looking strictly from a business perspective you can see why a team would use Eovaldi like they did in the postseason only to waffle on re-signing him due to durability concerns. It also would have felt gross if they actually did that. I understand it’s a business and all of that, but there’s room for teams treating people like people instead of just “assets”. Eovaldi deserved some goodwill for what he put his arm through here, and good on the Red Sox for not being overly cynical.
  • There’s also the fact that, where the Red Sox are on the win curve, overpaying is what you do. Boston is obviously in contention for 2019, and you have to go all-in when you’re in contention, particularly in today’s game when there are so few true contenders and they are hoarding all of the talent. Teams have to do everything they can to win while they have the talent, and that’s exactly what Boston has done and is continuing to do. Give me wins over an efficient payroll every day of the week.
World Series - Boston Red Sox v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  • We can’t overlook the effect this is going to have on the clubhouse, either. I have no idea what Eovaldi is like personality-wise in the clubhouse, but it’s perfectly clear that every single Red Sox player who was asked loudly clamored for the team to bring back the postseason hero. The impact his ultimately losing, but still heroic, outing in Game Three of the World Series had on the entire roster is well known at this point, and his teammates clearly respect the hell out of him. They’ll feel good to know that their cries were heard.
  • Along those same lines, how can you not root for them getting the band back together for another run? Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly are still out there, of course, and either or both could be wearing other uniforms next year. For the most part, though, they’re bringing the same team back in 2019. It almost certainly can’t go as well as it did in 2018, but you can’t blame them for trying it again.
  • This re-signing also has an impact on the roster beyond just 2019. Eovaldi fills the one hole in the rotation for the upcoming season, but after next year the team could potentially lose both Chris Sale and Rick Porcello, both of whom come to the end of their contract next winter. Simply re-signing Eovaldi doesn’t make the decisions any easier with those two, but it does give them one more solid arm under control beyond 2019.
  • There’s also the matter of payroll, on which this deal obviously has a significant impact. According to my tracker, the Red Sox now stand at just over $242 million in luxury tax calculations. Remember, the second tax threshold is at $246 million, at which point their top draft pick in 2020 would fall by ten points. This obviously doesn’t include any reliever(s) they sign this winter, midseason additions next year and new call-ups due to DL stints. They went over that line last season, and barring anything drastic they are going to go over again this year.
  • Could the Red Sox go with a six-man rotation, or something resembling it, next year? I haven’t really thought this all the way through, so forgive me, but it just crossed my mind. They’re going to want to keep everyone fresh, particularly early in the year, after the big workloads from the postseason. They’ll also potentially have some solid major-league depth options if Wright, Johnson and Velazquez are all still around. I don’t think a strict six-man rotation would be wise, but for at least a couple of months if they have long stretches of games without an off-day, it’s worth considering. Maybe. I have to think about it more.
  • During the build up to this signing, I had a number of people ask about potentially signing Eovaldi to close. That was never realistic, even if there’s an argument that putting him in a dynamic relief role would be the best use of his skillset. He wants to start, and he wasn’t going to sign to be a reliever. That being said, if the injury bug does indeed creep up again and it’s determined they need to limit his workload, I could very easily see him converting to relief at some point in this contract. It’s not the best-case scenario obviously, but as a fall-back plan it’s not awful.
  • The big lesson from this: Dave Dombrowski always gets his guy. We may not always like the move, and there are always arguments that he overpays, but Dombrowski puts the team together that he thinks has the best chance of winning. It certainly worked last year, and it’s fun as hell to watch.