The trade winds continue to swirl across the American League East as we inch closer and closer to the trade deadline on July 31st. Less than 24 hours after the New York Yankees acquired Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles, their biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox, have made a move of their own. The Red Sox announced Wednesday morning that they have acquired starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league pitcher Jalen Beeks.
Eovaldi, 28, has successfully returned to the mound after a multitude of surgeries on his right elbow which began back in August of 2016. Eovaldi missed all of the 2017 season while recovering from needing both Tommy John surgery and an operation to repair the flexor tendon which had completely torn off the bone. Eovaldi then needed a third surgery back in March of this year to remove, “loose bodies” in his right elbow.
The good news is that Eovaldi seems to be clear of any trouble with his elbow now and has been able to put together a strong comeback campaign up to this point in the season. Eovaldi holds a 3-4 record with a 4.26 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 124.2 innings pitched so far in 2018. It is also encouraging to see that, according to FanGraphs, he has not lost much velocity off his fastball despite numerous surgeries on his elbow. Eovaldi has always been known for being able to throw heat and for having the stamina to do so over the course of six or seven innings every start. Thus far in 2018, he has done just that, averaging between 96-98 mph on his fastball while also consistently pitching into the sixth and seventh innings this year.
His numbers are actually better than they appear on paper given that a large bulk of the runs he has surrendered this season came in one start against the Minnesota Twins earlier this month. Eovaldi lasted just 2.2 innings in that game while giving up a walloping eight runs which caused his ERA to balloon up from 3.35 to 4.59 after that game. He managed to bounce back strongly in his last start with the Rays, going six innings against the Miami Marlins while striking out eight batters and surrendering just one earned run.
Those two outings nicely summarize the kind of pitcher that Nathan Eovaldi is: he is completely hit or miss. Eovaldi looks like one of the most dominant pitchers in the game when he is at his best and, conversely, looks like a batting practice instructor when he is at his worst.In acquiring starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi from Tampa, the @RedSox added balance and stamina to their rotation.Click To Tweet
Nevertheless, the Red Sox have decided that the fireballer is worth taking a chance on. In exchange for Eovaldi, the Red Sox traded away 25-year-old left-hander, Jalen Beeks. While Beeks’ introduction to the major league level has been disastrous it has been an entirely different story at the minor league level. Beeks has been impressive down in Triple-A Pawtucket, going 5-5 with a 2.89 ERA while striking out 117 batters in 87 innings pitched. There is a high level of upside for Beeks who will be joining a rebuilding Rays team that is always looking for more young pitching.
The trade for Eovaldi comes off the heels of a disappointing loss that the Red Sox suffered to the lowly Orioles on Tuesday night. Boston’s starter, Drew Pomeranz, had just returned from a lengthy stint on the disabled list and was only able to last 4.2 innings. Pomeranze surrendered four runs on six hits, including a go-ahead two-run home run to Tim Beckham in the fifth inning which promptly ended his night.
The “Wheel of Misfortune” known as the Red Sox bullpen did not help matters either. Manager Alex Cora spun the wheel in the sixth inning and it landed on Joe Kelly, who somehow managed to give away three runs, two hits, and two walks in just two thirds of an inning.
Nights like Tuesday night have left many fans throughout Red Sox Nation wanting for relief help in the bullpen, thus making the trade for Eovaldi even more surprising. This is why the bullpen help the team so desperately needs is likely to come from their own starting rotation. Chris Sale and Rick Porcello have performed as expected, if not better, so far this season, so those two will not be losing their jobs as starting pitchers any time soon. The more likely candidates are David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Pomeranz. One of those left-handers is likely to be moved to the bullpen in the near future.
The trade for Eovaldi serves two purposes for the Red Sox. First, it balances their starting rotation by adding another right-hander to the mix. The primary competition in the Amerian League for the Red Sox comes from the Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros, all of whom have lineups loaded with powerful right-handed hitters. The addition of Eovaldi now ensures that Rick Porcello is not the lone right-hander in the Red Sox rotation going up against these right-handed heavy lineups.
Secondly, the move serves as a wake-up call to the aforementioned Price, Pomeranz, and Rodriguez. Those three must perform better in order to keep their spot in the starting rotation or else one of them will be moved to the bullpen.
Acquiring a starter like Eovaldi may be considered a small move, but adding a hard-throwing right-hander to combat their American League rivals could end up greatly benefiting the Red Sox as they march towards the postseason.