It’s July, which means only one thing: Trade SZN. The Red Sox made their fair share of roster moves in June, including signing former All-Star 2B Brandon Phillips to a minor league contract and trading for Steve Pearce. However, Dave Dombrowski has never been shy about shuffling pieces around the board (and across the league), so it’s unlikely the Sox are done tweaking their roster for the summer.
The next shoe to drop could be a move for starting pitching help. The Red Sox were among several teams in attendance for current Rays’ starter Nathan Eovaldi‘s start on Monday, per MLB.com’s Bill Chastain.
Sox fans will remember Eovaldi best during his stint with the Yankees from 2015-16. During that two-year stretch, Eovaldi was 23-11 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He missed all of last season after undergoing his second Tommy John’s surgery in August 2016. Eovaldi could represent a low-risk/low-cost rental for teams in need of pitching depth down the stretch.
Boston fits that mold perfectly. Chris Sale has been dominant and Rick Porcello has been both consistent and dependable. David Price has shown a tendency to mix strong stretches with complete meltdowns. He is also only a year removed from his own injury issues. Eduardo Rodriguez seems to have righted the ship with Wednesday’s virtuoso performance in Washington. He’s also notoriously inconsistent, and has gone deeper than the 6th inning only twice in his 17 starts this year. Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are currently on the disabled list.
Both Wright and Pomeranz are close to returning. Wright is expected back by the All-Star break, and Pomeranz made his first rehab start this week. However, Wright’s knee issues are becoming chronic, and Pomeranz allowed four HRs in Monday’s rehab start. Neither qualify as reliable back-of-the-rotation options.
That’s where Eovaldi fits in. He’s posted a 3.92 ERA across seven starts so far this season, with career highs in K/9 (7.6) and K/BB (5.83) ratio. While he’s benefited from good batted ball luck, he’s also had poor home run luck. Opponents are only batting .211 on balls in play, and he’s stranded 79.6% of his runners. However, Eovaldi’s HR/FB rate (21.4%) is higher than ever. In other words, look for both of those numbers to even out a bit as the sample size grows.
Eovaldi’s stuff has remained consistent in his return as well. He still throws gas (avg. four-seam velocity of 97 mph). He’s also mixed in a cutter more frequently than ever. In 2016, only 7.3% of Eovaldi’s pitches were classified as such. That number has climbed all the way up to 25.3% this season. That could partially explain his luck on balls in play. An improved cut-fastball is limiting how much solid contact opposing batters are able to make.
Granted, none of these numbers are exactly eye-popping. But, they are representative of a solid fifth starter who provides depth at the end of the rotation. Eovaldi would come with his own question marks as well; he missed the start of this season with elbow and rib injuries. However, if the price is right, he could be a nice piece to help get the Sox through the dog days of summer.