BALTIMORE — Nathan Eovaldi was trending positively.
Always a hard thrower, it took Eovaldi parts of two seasons to return from Tommy John surgery but he has managed to reinvent himself as the same power righthanded arm he had shown in recent stops with the Marlins and Yankees.
As much as Dave Dombrowski and Alex Cora tried to deemphasize that they were too lefthanded in the rotation, the acquisition of Eovaldi gave credence to the fact they were. Their rotation, especially with Drew Pomeranz back, was tilted lefthanded. With Steven Wright not likely to return anytime soon and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez also out with a longer term injury, the addition of Eovaldi provides balance as the Red Sox contend with righthanded hitters like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Edwin Encarnación, and others.
Cora already has Eovaldi penciled in against the Yankees on Saturday to offset their righthanded hitters.
The trade for the 28-year-old Eovaldi certainly doesn’t mean the Red Sox are done. They need bullpen help. With Joe Kelly fading, the Red Sox have an urgent need for a consistent reliever, righthanded or lefthanded. As teams make these trade deadline deals, it’s important to obtain someone for the rest of the regular season, but perhaps more so to set up your bullpen for the postseason.
But Dombrowski obviously had sufficient enough concern about the rotation to make this move. Dombrowski said a few days ago that the inability to make a deal because of a sparse farm system was overblown. But it wasn’t overblown in trying to make a deal for Britton or a player in the high-rent district. In landing Eovaldi, however, the Red Sox were able to get the Rays interested in Beeks, 25, who has had a good run in Triple A but hasn’t performed well in his major league opportunities.
Eovaldi also fit perfectly in Boston’s budget with the pro-rated portion of his $2 million salary counting against Boston’s luxury tax threshold, which is close to eclipsing the $237 million third tier of tax.
Eovaldi was 3-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 10 starts for the Rays this season, striking out 53 batters and walking only eight. He also throws at 97 miles per hour and hitters have never felt comfortable facing him, especially righthanders who have hit .207 against him.
According to Dombrowski, the Red Sox had been watching Eovaldi’s starts for over a month and their scouts came away convinced he could be an effective, cheap solution for their righthanded pitching dilemma. He had a real stinker of an outing two starts ago against the Twins when he allowed eight earned runs on nine hits in 2⅔ innings, causing his ERA to inflate from 3.35 to 4.59.
In that bad start, the Twins loaded up with lefthanded hitters.
“That’s why he’s pitching on Sunday against them,’ Cora said. “He’s due to pitch well against them. before that he was holding lefties to a .170 average or right around there and then that happens.”
But he rebounded against Miami, going six innings and allowing one run while striking out eight with no walks. Only twice in his ten starts has he gone seven innings or more. But the Red Sox are expecting six strong innings from him and the ability to dominate the heavily righthanded lineups they’ll face in August and September. Dombrowksi said Eovaldi could slip into the bullpen if need be.
According to Brooks Baseball, which keeps track of every pitch for every pitcher, they write about Eovaldi:
“His four seam fastball generates a high number of swings[-and-]misses compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers, is blazing fast, has some natural sinking action, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ four-seamers and has slight arm-side run. His cutter is thrown at a speed that’s borderline unfair. His splitter is thrown extremely hard, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ splitters and has some natural sink to it. His slider is much harder than usual and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders. His curve [take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 14 of them in 2018] is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ curves, has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ curves.”
For the price? It seems like a solid addition for the Red Sox.
Going into this offseason, everyone knew the Red Sox needed to get creative not only with their finances, but also with what they could offer to make something happen. The fact Tampa Bay bit on Beeks is a coup for the Red Sox.
“I think you got the best of the lot,’ said one national league scout whose team was also after Eovaldi.
As Dombrowski pointed out, Eovaldi is AL East battle-tested. His nature is not to be overwhelmed by any situation. It seems to be a good fit. But his performance will be the final determination .