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How Nathan Eovaldi could win the Cy Young Award

TL;DR: By pitching very well in a short season that doesn’t give him enough time to get hurt.

MLB: Boston Red Sox-Workouts
Mask it, baby!
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox probably do not have enough good pitchers to be competitive in 2020, despite what I wrote last month. Chris Sale is out, Eduardo Rodriguez is ailing and Zack Godley, if signed, is the third starter in what’s left of the rotation, leaving Nathan Eovaldi as the only big name still hanging around. It’s hard to win with one functioning pitcher, even if he’s the best pitcher in baseball, and Eovaldi is not the best pitcher in baseball, so that ought to make it even more difficult.

Adding to the difficulty, Eovaldi has a habit of getting hurt every other month in the best of times and this shortened season, should it progress, seems like an injury magnet above and beyond that of a normal year, given that everyone is out of their routines. But hear me out here: If Eovaldi’s routine includes getting hurt, perhaps this is the year he avoids it, and puts together a short season for the ages.

Just hear me out: What if this is Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, but for a whole abbreviated slate? Then as now, it sorta won’t matter if the team wins or loses. When he came off the mound that night in defeat after throwing 38 innings or whatever it was, his teammates were far more impressed by his effort than they were disappointed at the results. He gave everything he had, and while it wasn’t good enough to lift up the whole team, it was damn good baseball at the highest level and exactly what you want out of your players.

Fast forward almost two years and, sure, both the Red Sox and world have gone to utter shit, but Eovaldi’s arm is still attached and the team has to play for something. My theory is that something is Eovaldi’s Cy Young Award case. We have already seen how a merely decent righty can snatch the hardware over a full season (sorry, Rick Porcello). Why not a mercurial one in a sprint?

Whether all this comes to pass or not, by the way, it should reflect kindly on the contract then-GM Dave Dombrowki handed out to Eovaldi following his wonderful 2018 postseason. The contract was lampooned and groused about last year when Eovaldi got hurt for the 2,000th time in his career, but you can barely put a price tag on the last man standing. Beyond that, Eovaldi’s exactly the type of pitcher you want in a grab-n-go season — one who throws 100 falling out of bed, unless he lands on his shoulder and, by extension, back on the IL.

My biggest fear in writing this column is that he’s injured by the time I’m done typing it, but as he’s avoided it up until now it’s just a risk I’m going to take. In a season in which the Sox don’t have much to play for, it appears, hardware might be a nice goal. Eovaldi isn’t even listed on the Cy Young odds despite having the talent and opportunity to be a major contender, whereas Jesus Luzardo, who both has COVID and is a reliever so far, is listed at +4000. There is no planet that Luzardo wins it over Eovaldi, and I’d peg his chances at far better than, say, Carlos Carrasco and Dallas Keuchel, at +3000 each.

(By the same token, Xander Bogaerts is at +3000 to win the MVP, and per a recent roundtable at which Matt and I submitted correct answers and the others did not, I might throw some cash down on that. I think the short season helps Nate, though, because if Boagerts won I’d expect it to happen as the clear-cut best player at a premium position on a playoff team, which I don’t see happening here. A 1.90 ERA would speak for itself, tho.)

Of course he still needs to go out there and perform, but as of now, July 16, he’s still ready. That’s all we can ask. Perhaps my dreams of grandeur are getting the better of me, but the talent has never been an issue, only the parameters. Those have shrunken now to the size of a two-plus month stretch of baseball. You could hardly reverse engineer a better situation for him to grab the trophy if you tried. Now he gets to try, and I hope to enjoy watching, if any of his happens at all.