One of the best Trade Deadline additions any team made in 2018, Nathan Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA over 12 regular-season appearances (11 starts) with the Red Sox before shining in the postseason for the World Series champions. Having boosted his stock considerably, Eovaldi should draw significant interest on the free-agent market.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the right-hander.
Eovaldi ranked fifth-best FA by Sporting News
Nov. 13: Eovaldi’s postseason heroics assuredly helped his free-agent stock, but given how this market has long been touted to be one of the best in history, would it be a stretch to say that Eovaldi is among the five best players available? Ryan Fagan of Sporting News suggests as much in a list of 79 free agents he ranked recently, with Eovaldi coming in at No. 5, behind Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin and Josh Donaldson.
“Eovaldi isn’t just here because of his stellar World Series,” Fagan writes. “He had similar dominant stretches in the regular season, and that type of triple-digit mph late in starts is intoxicating. And like Corbin, he’s only 29.”
Indeed, of 235 starting pitchers who threw a four-seam fastball in the sixth inning or beyond, Eovaldi’s 96.9 mph average trailed only Luis Severino (98.0 mph) and Noah Syndergaard (97.0 mph), according to Statcast™. While Eovaldi likely won’t be used in the capacity he was in the postseason — coming out of the bullpen for both abbreviated and extended stretches — Eovaldi showed that, even in a year that he came back from his Tommy John surgery, that he still possesses some of the game’s most elite velocity for a starting pitcher.
What does recent history say about the contract Eovaldi should expect?
Nov. 12: Eovaldi is one of the most intriguing arms on this offseason’s market thanks to his postseason heroics, but even just a few months ago, when the hard-throwing right-hander was acquired by the Red Sox at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, he was a high-upside arm with electric stuff but was on pace to post an ERA over 4.00 for the fourth straight season. It was only after he moved to Boston and made various adjustments that he saw extended success and his stock soared down the stretch.
But as the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier points out, that might simply have been considered overperformance in a small sample size in the past, but these days, with teams increasingly focused on the promise of future performance and potential, those few months of elite performance with the Red Sox will be enough to land him a lucrative contract.
But just how lucrative? Speier examines a pair of similar cases in the recent past — Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Tyler Chatwood of the Cubs — to estimate the dollar figure that Eovaldi might be looking at.
After the Red Sox signed Hill out of independent ball in 2015 and the left-hander posted a 1.55 ERA down the stretch, he landed a prove-it deal with Oakland and locked down a three-year, $48 million deal as a 36-year-old after the 2016 season given just over a year of proven success. Meanwhile, Chatwood landed a three-year, $38 million contract with the Cubs based on his relative youth and track record of success on the road, among other factors, despite his 4.69 ERA in his final year with the Rockies.
With Eovaldi a surer bet than Chatwood and the 28-year-old having pitched 111 innings in 2018, nearly identical to Hill’s 110 1/3 successful innings in 2016, the precedents suggest that Eovaldi, eight years younger than Hill at the time, should be in line for a floor of three years and $40 million or four years and $52 million. And it’s not hard to imagine Eovaldi approaching Hill’s average annual value of $16 million per year despite his injury history, meaning that a best-case scenario could be around four years and $65 million.
Could this potential blockbuster trade add a surprise suitor for Eovaldi?
Nov. 11: It will likely take an offer of seismic proportions to convince the Cubs to part with star third baseman Kris Bryant. Could a package involving Noah Syndergaard do the trick?
SNY’s Danny Abriano thinks that a swap of the hard-throwing Mets star for Chicago’s former National League Most Valuable Player Award winner would make sense for both sides. And as he goes on to explain, if such a dramatic deal were to unfold, the impact could make ripples around the league, possibily even impacting the free-agency pursuits of high-end starters like Patrick Corbin and Eovaldi.
Why would it make sense for the Cubs? Abriano thinks that despite all of the high-profile names in Chicago’s starting rotation, there is still a need for a true ace on the staff. He points to Jon Lester‘s diminishing numbers, Yu Darvish‘s inconsistent health and the inability of Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks to consistently pitch at an ace-caliber level as examples of why Syndergaard might be a good addition on the North Side.
Meanwhile, the Mets have a need for a right-handed power bat that could slot in at third base, and with New York reportedly not interested in pursuing Manny Machado, Bryant could offer a tantalizing alternative. Since Bryant hasn’t yet hit free agency, if the Mets aren’t willing to pay Bryce Harper or Machado to add a franchise-altering face, the Cubs third baseman could offer an outside-the-box solution.
With that said, if the Mets felt confident enough in Bryant’s shoulder health to part with Syndergaard, they would likely seek a high-upside arm to bolster their rotation. Though Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton could make sense as trade options, the prospect cost of acquiring one of those arms — in addition to whatever prospects the Mets might send to Chicago to sweeten the Bryant deal — might be prohibitive.
So in that case, the Mets might join the fray for Corbin, Eovaldi, Dallas Keuchel or other top starters in free agency. Though the bidding for Corbin and Keuchel are expected to be pricey with the Yankees in tow, new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has expressed that New York remains in win-now mode, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets were aggressive in free agency.
Could Nationals be dark-horse suitor for Eovaldi?
Nov. 10: While it’s believed that the Red Sox are interested in bringing back free agent Nathan Eovaldi, the market for the right-hander could be robust. In fact, in an article for The Athletic (subscription required) on Thursday, Jim Bowden listed 14 teams that could be in on Eovaldi this offseason.
The Red Sox and the Yankees are on there, as are the rebuilding Reds and White Sox, who both are reportedly planning to spend aggressively in free agency to improve their pitching staffs.
Then there are the dark horse candidates, with the Nationals standing out as one of the more interesting possibilities.
Washington’s primary focus is re-signing Bryce Harper, but if Harper departs, the club may not necessarily look for replacements on the free-agent market, as it has Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor in the fold. Instead, the Nats could use some of the resources they have earmarked for Harper to improve other areas of the roster, including the catching position and the rotation.
The Nationals already have a substantial amount invested in the starting staff, and they may want to avoid handing out another $100 million or more to a pitcher with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the books, making Eovaldi a more likely target than Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.
Some GMs wary about Eovaldi’s health history
Nov. 9: After raising his free-agent profile with a terrific postseason, Nathan Eovaldi was unsurprisingly one of the most talked about players at the General Managers Meetings this week.
However, the buzz wasn’t all positive. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, a number of general managers appear to be somewhat wary about Eovaldi’s health history, which includes two Tommy John surgeries. Feinsand predicts that will keep the right-hander from landing the same type of contract Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are expected to command.
Still, Feinsand writes that Eovaldi “looks to be in strong position to land a three- or four-year deal with an average annual value many estimate will be in the $15 million-$17 million range.”
McCullers’ surgery could make room in Astros’ rotation
Nov. 8: With Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel bound for free agency and the recent news that Lance McCullers Jr. will miss the entire 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Astros may look into adding or retaining another veteran arm or two to bolster the starting rotation while they still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole under contract.
The Astros could give more innings to youngsters Framber Valdez, Josh James or Forrest Whitley behind Verlander and Cole, but in his roundup of the General Managers Meetings on Thursday, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi suggests that Houston could go after Eovaldi, who hails from Alvin, Texas, the same hometown as that of Nolan Ryan, who currently serves as an advisor to the Astros.
Houston has been plenty aggressive in pursuing starting pitchers on the trade market in the recent past, including their deal with the Tigers at the 2017 Trade Deadline that netted them Verlander and their blockbuster trade with the Pirates for Cole this past offseason. But particularly in light of the prospect costs of those recent deals, if general manager Jeff Luhnow wants to hold on to his current prospect base, a move in free agency for a pitcher like Eovaldi would make sense.
Are Yankees, Red Sox also rivals for Eovaldi?
Nov. 8: In a perfect world, a championship club would be able to bring back all its big pieces and re-load for another run at a World Series title. In the Red Sox’s case, that would entail bringing back Nathan Eovaldi, who himself stated this week that it would be hard to leave the club he pitched heroically for in the 2018 postseason.
The Red Sox would love to bring back the hard-throwing righty, too, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports in a story for Fancred Sports. But it won’t be as easy for Boston, as the champs could face one of their biggest challenges for Eovaldi from a club both they and the right-hander know well: The Yankees.
In his weekly notes column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo writes that the Yankees will “kick the tires” on a number of starting pitchers this winter, and that could include Eovaldi after he boosted his stock significantly with his October outings. New York traded for Eovaldi in Dec. 2014 in a deal with the Marlins, but released the flamethrower in 2016 after Eovaldi needed the second Tommy John surgery of his career. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made clear his intentions to acquire multiple starters this winter, even after the pinstripes signed veteran CC Sabathia to a one-year deal on Wednesday.
“We need to reinforce our pitching,” Cashman said at this week’s General Managers Meeting in Carlsbad, Calif. “We’ll gravitate toward anything that makes sense [free agents or via trade]. I’m interested in adding more than just one pitcher. I need, I think, to add multiples.”
Cafardo notes that the Red Sox’s march to the title only amplifies the pressure on the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman to answer back with a championship of their own. Signing Eovaldi, who inspired Boston with his six innings of relief in the 18-inning Game 3 of the World Series against the Dodgers, could serve a dual purpose of strengthening New York’s chances while also hurting its biggest rival in the process.
Looking to emerge from rebuild, Padres could eye Eovaldi
Nov. 6: The Padres’ pipeline is largely built on pitching. The caveat? Not many will be Major League ready by 2019. MacKenzie Gore (the club’s No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) headlines San Diego’s No. 1-ranked farm system, which consists of nine pitchers within their top 12 prospects, giving the club much promise for the future.
But for now, the rotation lacks depth. And GM A.J. Preller, who’s proven to be aggressive at this time of year, is reportedly in the market for “quality” starting pitching, with an eye on Eovaldi, per the San Diego Union Tribune’s Kevin Acee.
“Prospect pitching is probably the smart way to go,” Preller said, per Acee. “We think we have a lot of it. We think we have a lot of quality coming … You can never have enough quality pitching.”
Eovaldi is reportedly being targeted by many clubs in a win-now mode, such as the Red Sox, Braves, Angels, and, to a lesser degree, the White Sox. And with the Friars coming off last-place finishes in two of the last three years and embarking on 2019 in a loaded National League West, they may have a hard time competing with some of the right-hander’s other suitors.
But Preller and Co. have been privy to shelling out expensive contracts to free agents in the past, such as James Shields and, most recently, Eric Hosmer, who last year inked an eight-year, $144 million pact in what at the time was perceived to be a bold move signaling intent to return to relevancy. Might Eovaldi then be enticed should they make him a strong offer?
Eovaldi could sign before end of November
Nov. 6: While bidding for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado may carry well into December, some free-agent situations could be resolved by Thanksgiving, writes MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, who names Eovaldi among those cases.
As Morosi points out, teams likely aren’t going to hand out $60 million to $70 million to Eovaldi based solely on a strong postseason. However, his playoff dominance could be viewed as the culmination of a season in which the flamethrowing righty made notable strides with his location and command, leading to a career-best 1.13 WHIP and a 5.0 K/BB ratio.
If he doesn’t return to the Red Sox, Eovaldi could be an option for the Reds, White Sox or Angels.
Is Eovaldi considering a return to the Red Sox?
Nov. 5: Perhaps no player improved his free-agent stock more over the final few months of the 2018 season and postseason than did Eovaldi, the hard-throwing righty whose 100-mph heat was displayed on the national stage — in a variety of roles and circumstances — for a Red Sox team that won it all.
Of course, the 28-year-old’s performance has made him all the more sought after on the open market, driving up his expected price tag along the way. But would Eovaldi consider staying put?
“It’s going to be hard to leave [Boston] if it doesn’t work out,” Eovaldi said on MLB Network Radio, referring to the possibility of returning to the Red Sox.
Eovaldi cited a number of connections he made while in Boston, from the club’s tight-knit pitching staff to the pitching coach (Dana LeVangie) and bullpen coach (Craig Bjornson). If those factors help sway Eovaldi to want to stay, then it might come down to whether the Red Sox are willing to pony up to keep him.
Could teams consider Eovaldi for relief role?
Nov. 5: Eovaldi’s brilliant postseason led to increased speculation about the type of deal the right-hander might be able to get in free agency, with some projections landing in the neighborhood of $80 million.
But The Athletic’s Jim Bowden has more modest expectations. While Bowden ranks Eovaldi seventh overall on his list of the Top 35 free agents (subscription required), the former MLB general manager projects the hard-throwing 28-year-old will earn a three-year, $42 million contract, noting that his injury history may deter some teams from offering longer-term deals.
Eovaldi has two Tommy John surgeries and a procedure to repair a torn flexor tendon in his past, and he missed the first two months of 2018 with loose bodies in his right elbow.
Bowden also suggests that clubs could consider Eovaldi as a setup reliever or even as a closer after he dominated out of the bullpen in the playoffs.