The Yankees are 0 for 2 now that Nathan Eovaldi has signed with Boston. However, fans need not panic.
Nathan Eovaldi has signed a four-year, $67.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, per multiple sources, and most New York Yankees fans have probably entered panic mode.
The Defcon 5 alarm has been sounded. Fallout shelters are being crafted for Boston’s eventual hostile takeover of the AL East. Prayers to the gods, both the old and the new, are at record volumes.
Free-agent RHP Nathan Eovaldi in agreement with #RedSox, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2018
According to a source, Eovaldi’s deal is four years and $67.5 million.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 6, 2018
Relax, Yankees fans. Not only is the offseason still young with plenty of pitchers available, but not signing Eovaldi was actually the smart move on New York’s end. Him not coming to the Bronx for a second tenure will turn out to be a good thing, so all of this panicking is unnecessary.
Eovaldi then and now
Nathan Eovaldi came to New York from the Miami Marlins via a December 2014 trade and made an immediate impact. Thanks to learning a changeup, he went 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA and led the American League in winning percentage.
He struggled the following year as he tried to incorporate a splitter, and he was out by midseason after needing a second Tommy John surgery.
Eovaldi came back with the Tampa Bay Rays to start 2018 and was a whole new pitcher thanks to a newly learned cutter. Thanks to his new approach, he dropped his BB/9 to 1.62 from 2.89 in 2016. He was traded to the Red Sox at the trade deadline and though he only went 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA on the year, it’s clear Eovaldi is a much different pitcher today.
Instead of just relying on a fastball/slider combo with a third pitch mixed in, he is fully committed to mixing up his arsenal. He only threw his fastball 39.8 percent of the time last season compared to its 56.3 percent usage rate for his career, per Fangraphs. His slider use dipped to 11.8 percent compared to career use of 20.2 percent.
His cutter, however, was 32 percent. Instead of just blowing hitters away with velocity, he’s fooling them with breaking pitches. As Boston marched towards a World Series title, he earned himself a place in the annals with an epic relief performance. In the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3, Eovaldi threw six innings out of the bullpen before allowing a walk-off homer to Max Muncy.
Nathan Eovaldi is a more complete pitcher than he was earlier in his career, and the Yankees are Einstein-levels of smart for not bringing him back.
Learning from history
There are several reasons why the Yankees were smart not to outbid Boston for ] Eovaldi. The first is 2018 being the first season in which he looked like a complete pitcher. Second, any pitcher with not one but two Tommy John surgeries is going to raise some red flags. This is probably why, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI, New York was unwilling to offer more than a three-year contract.
Now, let’s take a trip down memory lane to show why that was smart on Brian Cashman’s end. The setting is the 2004 offseason, with the Boston Red Sox reigning as World Series champions after coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS. As a result, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner went into panic mode that offseason and opened up the coffers something fierce.
The Yankees signed two arms that offseason: right-handers Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano. The 29-year-old Wright had just won 15 games for the Atlanta Braves the previous year but had a long history of shoulder troubles. Pavano, also 29, had just gone 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA with the then-Florida Marlins in his first breakout season.
Wright got a three-year, $21 million deal while Pavano signed one worth $39.95 million over four years. Both deals were, in a word, disastrous. Wright’s shoulder started barking and he posted a 4.99 ERA in two seasons before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Similarly, injuries limited Pavano to just 26 starts over the life of his contract.
That said, do the Yankees really want to take that same risk with Eovaldi?
Look, I get it. Nathan Eovaldi was the next big fish in the free agency pond after Patrick Corbin signed with the Washington Nationals. Losing him is disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. Keep in mind J.A. Happ is still on the market, and he went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in pinstripes. He’s 36, sure, but proved he can hang in New York.
The Winter Meetings also start this weekend, so Cashman could easily swing a trade for an arm involving Sonny Gray. New York also has pitching depth up the wazoo in the minors, so who’s to say some youngster can’t win over management in Spring Training? There is also the possibility of signing Manny Machado to consider, though my feelings on that are well known.
Long story short, the Yankees are going to be just fine without Nathan Eovaldi, so stop acting like the world is about to turn into Fury Road!