Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 27, 2018 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
There weren’t many players more important to the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series run than Nathan Eovaldi. Originally acquired at the trade deadline for Jalen Beeks, Eovaldi had a strong regular season with the Red Sox, posting a 3.33 ERA and a 2.88 FIP. However, he turned his game up another level in the postseason, posting a 1.61 ERA and a 2.71 FIP in 22.1 innings of work. He was one of the Red Sox biggest heroes, and his otherworldly efforts in Game Three was one of the most memorable moments of the entire season.
Eovaldi enters free agency at the perfect time. The hard-throwing righty is riding high off his postseason heroics and looks to earn a big payday. Should the Red Sox try to sign back their World Series hero, or would they be better off looking for another arm?
Nathan Eovaldi: Boston Red Sox Free Agent Profile
Case For Bringing Eovaldi Back
Anyone who watched the 2018 playoffs knows why the Red Sox should bring Eovaldi back. Throughout his career, Eovaldi has always had the stuff to be one of the better pitchers in baseball. His fastball can hit triple digits and he’s capable of sustaining that velocity late into games. Additionally, Eovaldi has some of the best command in the game, allowing just 1.62 walks per nine innings throughout the 2018 season.
The real reason for Eovaldi’s sudden success is his cutter. After going without the pitch for the grand majority of his career, Eovaldi used the cutter 32.0% of the time in 2018. This pitch made all the difference for Eovaldi, as hitters were simply unable to account for a pitch that so closely mirrored his fastball. Adding the cutter to his pitching repertoire gave Eovaldi four major-league pitches (along with his changeup and slider) and hitters simply couldn’t figure out how to hit him.
2018 was a career year in many ways for Eovaldi, and the good news is this success is completely sustainable. His fastball still has high velocity, his cutter is a genuinely amazing offering, and his command is second to none. That’s the recipe for a great starting pitcher moving forward.
Case Against Brining Eovaldi Back
There really isn’t a case for not wanting to bring Eovaldi back. Some detractors will point out that his playoff run was aided by a good amount of batted ball luck. In fairness, said detractors are not wrong. Throughout the postseason, Eovaldi allowed an unsustainably-low .215 BABIP, a number which will certainly regress to the mean in 2019.
That said, even though he was lucky in the playoffs, he was unlucky in the regular season. Eovaldi’s BABIP was .325 during his shortened regular season, which is almost 20 points higher than his career .307 BABIP. While the results may have been better in the postseason, the underlying numbers say Eovaldi was basically just as good in the regular season (2.88 FIP) as he was in the postseason (2.71 FIP).
If you’re really grasping at straws, there are a few weak cases against signing Eovaldi. For one, he’s set to get PAID. The Red Sox should know more than anyone that World Series heroes entering free agency tend to get overpaid (see: Pablo Sandoval). Eovaldi will obviously be better than Sandoval, but some team may be willing to give him ace money. As great as Eovaldi is, he’s not worth Max Scherzer money. It’s unlikely any team would give him that, but you never know.
The only other cause for concern with Eovaldi is his injury history. Eovaldi has already undergone two Tommy John surgeries, which is obviously not a good thing. At 28 years old, there is some worry about Eovaldi’s health near the end of any long-term deal.
While there are a few concerns with Eovaldi, they don’t even come close to canceling out all he can bring to the table. Eovaldi proved throughout his time in Boston that he can be one of the better pitchers in baseball and has all the tools to continue that performance into the future.
It will cost a pretty penny to bring back Eovaldi and the Red Sox have a series of young stars who are about to receive a big payday. That said, Eovaldi is too good not to bring back. The Red Sox will never be outbid for a player they want, and Eovaldi clearly loves playing in Boston.
You can never have too many good starting pitchers, especially when Chris Sale and his shoulder are such a big question mark. While Craig Kimbrel may be a bigger name, bringing back Nathan Eovaldi should be the Red Sox top priority.