With Eduardo Rodriguez on the DL again, the Red Sox needed to bolster their rotation. They did so today by trading for Nathan Eovaldi.
Coming into the season, no one expected the Boston Red Sox to need a deadline deal for a starting pitcher. But then baseball happened. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright are on the DL. Drew Pomeranz was recently activated and is still struggling to get back up to his normal velocity… or to miss bats. His average velocity last night was below 89 MPH and he got lit up for 4 runs in 4.2 IP. The bullpen is full of questions as well, which means they can’t lean on it to cover up for holes in the rotation come October.
Despite a major league leading 71 wins, Dave Dombrowski has some work to do before the deadline next week. We’ve covered the interest in Mike Fiers and made a few suggestions recently. But last night’s poor start by Pomeranz may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. So what’s a Dealin’ Dave to do? Well, deal.
It’s not the intra-division trade we were expecting, but…
All eyes were on Baltimore and closer Zach Britton. While the rotation had a hole, the bullpen seemed to be the more pressing need. Then Brian Cashman swooped in and did what Cashman loves to do. He snatched a Red Sox trade target out from under the Fenway brain-trust at the last second. Meanwhile, Dave Dombrowski was talking to another divisional foe, the Tampa Bay Rays:
Nathan Eovaldi is a 28-year-old hard throwing right-handed pitcher. A very hard-throwing right-handed pitcher. In fact, his 97.4 MPH average fastball velocity would be number two in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. Only Luis Severino has a higher average velocity. And this isn’t a small sample size fluke, either. His average fastball velocity the last two seasons has been 97.6 and 97.9 MPH. He’s an absolute flamethrower.
What are the Red Sox getting?
Despite the elite velocity, results have been a bit elusive for Eovaldi throughout his career. He hasn’t had an ERA below 4.20 since 2013 with the Marlins. But there’s more to pitching than ERA. This season he might have a 4.26 ERA, but he also sports a 3.49 xFIP. xFIP is a home run neutral version of FIP, meaning it replaces his home run rate with a league average rate to try and filter out luck on fly balls. It’s not meant to replace ERA, but since his HR/FB rate has fluctuated between 6.1 and 18.3% during his major league career, we can probably assume that some of his home run rate is poor luck. That likely means his true talent level is somewhere between his current ERA and his xFIP.
If you are looking for good signs you can start with his WHIP. At 0.982 it adds fuel to the argument that he’s suffered a little poor luck with his ERA. That said, he does have a .245 BABIP against, which suggests the opposite. He strikes out 8.37 batters per nine innings and walks just 1.26. So he stays in the strike zone pretty well. His LOB% of 72.1% isn’t unsustainable either. If we look at some more advanced metrics, his xwOBA against is .316. That’s an expected wOBA against, for which .320 is average, meaning his figure is a little better than that. Four of his last five starts have been dominant, though the one that wasn’t was ugly, allowing 8 ER in 2.2 IP.
How does he compare to the guy he is replacing?
In a head to head match up, looking just at this season, he’s a clear step down. But not a big one. Eovaldi induces ground balls 5.8% more often, has a BB/9 1.49 lower, and an xFIP 0.38 better. EdRod has the advantage in K/9 by 1.09, HR/FB by 7.8%, ERA by 0.82, FIP by 0.70, and has a BABIP which is far more neutral at .294. Of course, at this point, the question is how much better is he than the back of the Red Sox rotation? And that means a comparison to Dew Pomeranz.
Now we’re looking at an improvement virtually across the board. The only metrics in which Pomeranz has the advantage are K/9 with an 8.64 and HR/FB at 17.3%. Otherwise, Eovaldi has moderate to significant improvements. Is he going to be a lockdown stud for the team? Probably not. But he brings the floor up significantly. In that way, he is similar to the July acquisition of Jake Peavy. The Red Sox have their ace in Chris Sale. And they have starters capable of being excellent on any given night in David Price and Rick Porcello. Adding Eovaldi to that mix shores up the rotation, taking the pressure off of Pomeranz to round back into 2017 form immediately. If Pomeranz really is healthy, he can transition to the bullpen, where he has been excellent in the past, helping the team with their biggest need. If Pomeranz actually can get back to full speed, having too many starters for a postseason series is a good problem to have.
What did the Red Sox give up?
At this point, it is looking like a one for one swap with AAA starting pitcher Jalen Beeks heading to Tampa. Beeks is a 24-year-old left-handed starter who has been dominant at AAA but has not translated that to the majors in his two appearances. His debut was a start in which he surrendered 6 ER in 4 IP. He then made a relief appearance giving up 3 ER in 2.1 IP. While lacing the cleats up for Pawtucket, he has a 2.89 ERA with a 12.06 K/9 and a 3.06 BB/9. Despite the AAA success, Beeks likely didn’t have a long-term future with the Red Sox. His ceiling was middle of the rotation at best, and he’s far more likely to end up a back of the rotation innings eater.
That’s not to say he couldn’t be useful to the Red Sox, but as a price to pay for a guy who is already at the ceiling Beeks hopes to reach, it’s not too bad. Though, while some fans may be down on him because of his major league struggles, don’t let those numbers fool you. The Rays are getting a major league caliber prospect. And given their success with developing starting pitching, you can probably expect to see him have some success there.
What do you think about the acquisition of Nathan Eovaldi? Is he the fix for what ails the rotation? Will this impact their ability to secure a late-inning bullpen arm? Will the Red Sox regret not holding onto Beeks? Let us know in the comments!