After two terrific postseason starts, Nathan Eovaldi should hit it big in free agency
Nathan Eovaldi is 28 years old, a free agent and pitching great in the highest profile time of his career. Think he might make a few dollars in free agency this offseason?
Eovaldi is one of a few bona fide free agent pitchers in an unspectacular market. The ones who stand out will benefit by the likely competition for their services. Eovaldi is a low-key, humble guy who would never talk about his future while the team is in the middle of postseason bliss and with him being a huge part of it.
But his two postseason starts likely have propped up his value much higher than what it would have been if he had never made them. What the starts have shown, according to one baseball executive is, “He’s shown, first of all, that he’s healthy. He’s shown he can pitch on a big stage. He’s shown that he’s grown as a pitcher where he not only relies on that 97-100-miles-per-hour fastball, but now he has a cutter that’s proven so effective for him and allowed him to pitch deep into games. And, he’s had two Tommy John surgeries, survived them and is flourishing.
“The other thing is his age. Any time you can get a guy under 30 in free agency is a huge attribute.”
Most executives think a comparable is Alex Cobb, who also came back from Tommy John and landed a four-year, $57 million deal with Baltimore last offseason. Eovaldi’s pedigree exceeds Cobb’s at this point, so his contract should be more lucrative. The Red Sox should be interested in re-signing him, particularly with Chris Sale’s current physical condition.
Conversely, the guy whose stock has dropped is Drew Pomeranz, who had a terrible season (2-6, 6.08 ERA) and didn’t make the Red Sox playoff roster. Pomeranz was in line to make a small fortune after winning 17 games in 2017. If that had continued, the sky’s the limit in salary and interest. Pomeranz may still be a Red Sox target since they know him better than anyone and could foresee a rebound season.
Besides Eovaldi, here are the major starters who could warrant attention in free agency:
1. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks — Considered the most sought-after pitcher on the market this winter. Corbin will have his pick, but it likely won’t be in Arizona, which is looking to strip payroll and start rebuilding. Corbin is expected to draw a lot of interest from the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, and Braves. The deal likely could be at least five years in the $20 million-$25 million range.
2. J.A. Happ, LHP, Yankees – Happ is 36, but he won 17 games and while he had a few clunkers, including against the Red Sox, he’s still a desirable pitcher who can work at the front of the rotation. He likely will garner interest from the Yankees, but he may garner other interest if he’s willing to sign a three-year deal, which might be his max given his age. The Astros could be among the bidders.
3. Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Astros – The 2015 American League Cy Young winner still can be a useful middle-to-back-end starter. He obviously doesn’t fit the power pitcher profile teams are enamored with, but he’s a savvy veteran who knows how to get it done. Keuchel is still only 30 years old.
4. Charlie Morton, RHP, Astros – Morton is 34 and hit a wall the second half of the season in Houston. At one point this year, teammate Justin Verlander said, “He was one of the best three pitchers in the league.” But that dissipated a bit. He did have a resurgence later in the season, but he didn’t pitch well against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Morton is from Connecticut and if he doesn’t re-sign in Houston, you could see interest from the Red Sox or Yankees. The Red Sox do need to be a bit more righthanded in their rotation and if Eovaldi departs, Morton could be a short-term fix.
5. Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Brewers – Gonzalez was replaced on the playoff roster because of a sprained ankle. He didn’t have the usual quality season, beset by injuries after the Nationals traded him to Milwaukee. At 33, however, he’s still capable of quality starts in the middle-to-back-end of a rotation.
6. Matt Harvey, RHP, Reds – Harvey once would have drawn considerable interest in the open market, but he was never the same after his thoracic outlet surgery. Now he’s a serviceable starter, a back-of-the-rotation guy who at 29 could regain his elite status, but it’s likely he is what he is.
7. Lance Lynn, RHP, Yankees – Lynn simply didn’t pitch as well as he did in 2017 with the Cardinals, whether it was his rough start in Minnesota, and then with the Yankees, where he fulfilled a role at the back of their rotation with a 3-2 record and a 4.14 ERA. The Yankees could bring him back at their terms, but doubt they’re sweating whether they lose him.
8. CC Sabathia, LHP, Yankees — More knee surgery recently for the respected lefthander, a leader in the Yankees’ clubhouse. We believe the Yankees will move on only because, after their quick postseason departure, they need more of a sure thing 1 through 5 in their rotation rather than a 38-year-old lefty who has been breaking down. The Yankees likely need to promote the young pitchers they have touted over the past couple of years.
9. Hyun Jin-Ryu, LHP, Dodgers – The South Korean lefty willl finally reached free agency after five injury-filled seasons. He posted a 2.12 earned-run average in his first six starts this season, but then suffered a torn groin muscle May 2 in Arizona and didn’t return until Aug. 15. He’d pitched well in his first two postseason starts, but allowed five runs in three innings in a Game 6 loss to the Brewers. He went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts in 2018. He’s 31.
10. Wade Miley, LHP, Brewers – Pitched well over 16 starts for the Brewers (5-2, 2.57 ERA) and has pitched well in the playoffs. Brewers may seek to re-sign him, or he’ll end up with a National League team.
We’re not big on mentioning guys with opt outs or easily converted options. For instance, do we really think David Price or Clayton Kershaw will opt out of contracts that pay them more than $30 million per season? Now if these two were traded for each other, we’d listen to that.
Nor do we think the Red Sox would forgo Chris Sale’s $15 million option, or the Cubs deciding not to pick up Cole Hamels’s $20 million option after the brilliant job he did for them. Or the Giants not picking up a $12.5 million option on Madison Bumgarner. Or the Indians foregoing a $9.75 million option on Carlos Carrasco. Not going to happen.
Apropos of nothing
1. Some of the people interviewed, and not interviewed, for manager and GM jobs have always been a head-scratcher to me. Teams have finally smartened up in interviewing Rocco Baldelli, but now I wonder why Ruben Amaro Jr. is not being considered for GM or managing jobs. First of all, Amaro Jr. is relatively young – 53. Secondly, he’s bilingual. Thirdly, he’s smart – Stanford-educated. He’s already been a GM, made mistakes and also made some of the best deals, unloading high-priced players, of any GM in recent times. How many guys can actually be up for both a GM and a managing job? Executive and field experience. The Mets’ first base coach was also exposed to one of the best analytical departments when he was a coach with the Red Sox. He’s the first one to say his one regret when he ran the Phillies was he didn’t embrace analytics sooner. Over the years he’s done a good job dealing with the media, which has become one of the top attributes a manager or GM needs. Ask the Red Sox who hired both Dave Dombrowski and Alex Cora.
2. Stunning Major League Baseball didn’t enforce major penalties on the Astros for their spy work, which goes beyond videotaping the Red Sox dugout at the start of the playoffs. Don’t know if MLB wanted to silence the story quickly as to not have the attention focused on something so negative during the postseason. But league sources tell me there’s a long pattern of indiscretions even after MLB came down on the Red Sox after they used an electronic device to relay signals last year. The Astros are a great organization and they push the envelope on information-gathering and trying to gain an edge on the competition with their methods. Dombrowski hinted he doesn’t think the investigation is over, so we’ll see if there are more penalties. Let’s face it, these maneuvers will only be a deterrent if there are penalties.
3. Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who now owns the Marseille (France) soccer club and still owns property around Dodger Stadium, recalls Cora’s gritty 18-pitch at-bat on May 12, 2004, which ended in a home run. “One of the best big league at-bats I’ve ever seen,” said McCourt, who owned the Dodgers at the time. McCourt, a Boston native, has been rooting for a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. “It would be great to see those two teams go at it. I obviously have ties to both, growing up a Red Sox fan and owning the Dodgers. It would be fun.”
4. The Marlins have jettisoned lots of good people since Derek Jeter took over, but they recently hired some good scouts, including Adrian Lorenzo from the Red Sox, who will be a special assistant to baseball operations and scouting, and Nathan Adcock as an area scout. Meanwhile, one of the talented people let go, former Marlins assistant farm director Brett West, was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pro scout.
5. The Sports Museum’s “Tradition” event will take place Nov. 28 at TD Garden. Jim Lonborg is the baseball honoree, presented by Jim Kaat. For ticket information, go to www.sportsmuseum.org/events/the-tradition.
Updates on nine
1. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Red Sox – Scouts watching him in the Arizona Fall League believe he’s not far from the big leagues. Currently a reliever, one National League scout said, “He has a good four-pitch mix with a 96-97- miles per hour fastball. He’s got that reliever mentality. He’s very tough, aggressive. I know the Red sox are toying with keeping him in the pen and that’s not a bad choice, but I wouldn’t give up on him as a starter.”
2. Ned Colletti, former Dodgers GM – Colletti’s name continues to be the strongest mentioned in the Baltimore mix. Colletti, who is a television broadcaster for the Dodgers, has had consistent contact with Orioles owners, according to one major league source. Colletti certainly knows how to run an organization, working for many years under McCourt’s ownership.
3. Dave Littlefield, vice president, Tigers – The former Pirates general manager is gaining steam as a candidate with the Mets. He would appeal to the Fred Wilpon faction of the ownership, given Littlefield’s traditional approach to running a baseball team. Fred’s son, Jeff Wilpon, is still of the mind to hire someone with a greater analytic background. A hybrid, such as Dan Duquette, is possible.
4. Jason McLeod, assistant general manager, Cubs – McLeod, the longtime scouting guru for the Padres, Red Sox and Cubs, appears likely to accept a GM job after a few years of wanting to remain in Chicago with the Theo Epstein regime. McLeod is considered a strong candidate in San Francisco, which also has reached out to former Red Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye, currently the assistant GM under Mike Hazen in Arizona.
5. Dan Jennings, special assistant to Nationals – The former Marlins GM and manager has drawn inquiries from two teams gauging his interest. “Having been on both sides as a GM and manager it’s given me a greater appreciation of what managers, coaches and on-field personnel go through on a daily basis. Not sure you ever understand it fully until you do it,” Jennings said.
6. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros – Bregman is an outstanding young player defensively and offensively, but he probably has a little growing up to do. Posting those videos of Nathan Eovaldi allowing three straight homers to the Astros in June while he was pitching for the Rays backfired on him. Bregman was 0-for-his-last-10 in the ALCS, which prompted David Price to yell at him “Post that!” after he struck out vs. Eovaldi in the eighth inning of Game 5. Bregman had it coming, and while bulletin-board material isn’t as effective in baseball as it is in football, it gave the Sox that little edge that may have helped along the way.
7. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox – Pedroia’s role on this team reminds me so much of what Ellis Burks did for the 2004 Red Sox. At one point in the postseason, Johnny Damon was struggling and Burks, who was not on the active playoff roster, got on Damon’s case a bit and informed him he needed to work harder on his swing because the Red Sox needed him to be his best. Damon took the advice and turned his batting slump around. Pedroia provides constant reinforcement to his teammates. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to be a more active participant.
8. Manny Machado, SS, Dodgers – Did he cost himself money by admitting that hustling isn’t part of his game, and also stepping on Jesus Aguilar’s foot while running down the first base line in Game 4? The GM we asked said, “It would be a factor for me. Not sure I’d want that type of attitude on my team but I don’t need a shortstop or third baseman. If I did I might feel differently because there’s no denying his talent. But I don’t think I’d make that type of investment on someone who says hustling isn’t part of his game.”
9. Marwin Gonzalez, utility, Astros — In Boston, we marvel at jack-of-all-trades Brock Holt, but Gonzalez, who will be a free agent, is a switch-hitting multi-positional player who filled in so ably for the hobbled Jose Altuve. Gonzalez, who can hit for power, could wind up being a permanent positional player for someone such as the Giants, who are hunting for offense.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Finishing off an inning is critical to a team’s success. The fewest two-out hits allowed this season were by the Rays (355), the Braves (369), and the Dodgers (381). The Brewers allowed the fewest two-out homers with 40.” Also, “Here’s how good Mookie Betts is: This season with two outs and two strikes on a batter, the average batter hit .183. Only one batter in the majors hit over .300, as Mookie Betts hit .356.” . . . Happy birthday, Bryan Corey (45) and John Flaherty (51).