Trading for Nathan Eovaldi doesn’t quite give off the “trade deadline splash” that we are accustomed to seeing this time of year, but that’s exactly what the Red Sox did on Wednesday, dealing for the now former-Rays right-hander in a one-for-one player swap. In exchange for the starter, the Rays acquired minor league lefty Jalen Beeks.
In a market that is starved of starting pitching, Eovaldi actually was one of the top available arms along with J.A. Happ and Cole Hamels, who each come with their own set of concerns themselves. This was even despite the fact that Eovaldi has only made ten starts this season since returning from Tommy John surgery on May 24th.
Still, though, Eovaldi’s numbers have looked just as good — if not better — than they were when he had to have the procedure. The 28-year-old has a 4.26 ERA alongside a 53-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 57 innings in those ten starts. In that time, he has been worth 0.7 fWAR, matching the total that he posted in 2016 with the Yankees in 67.2 fewer innings.
Much of this value stems from the fact that Eovaldi’s peripherals are superb. His 20.1 K-BB% would rank 14th among all major league starters if he had enough innings to qualify. He has been able to generate these numbers because of a change in repertoire. He is throwing his four-seam fastball just 42.1 percent of the time this year, a career-low. Filling this gap has been a major uptick in his cutter usage, used 28.2 percent of the time. Batters are hitting just .196 with a .247 wOBA against that pitch.
The Red Sox’ rotation is one of the best in baseball, ranking fourth in the majors in fWAR from that group; so, to put it lightly, Eovaldi will not need to be an ace in order for them to benefit. What Boston did need, though, was depth. The fifth starter slot has been something of a carousel this season, as it currently belongs to Brian Johnson with Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright on the disabled list. It’s always better to have more options than not, and the Red Sox may have some tough decisions to sort out when it comes time to decide who will stay in the rotation when those two return.
On the flip side, the Rays theoretically turned a one-year, $4 million gamble on Eovaldi into a legitimate prospect. (Yes, Eovaldi was signed to a two-year deal, but he spent 2017 rehabbing with the team, not actually contributing on the big league level.)
Jalen Beeks, the 25-year-old pitcher that the Rays received in return, has been dominant at Triple-A Pawtucket this year. He has a 2.89 ERA alongside an outstanding 117-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 87.1 innings there. He has had some big league time this year without much success, having allowed nine runs in 6.1 innings. Those poor numbers can probably be coughed up to small sample size. Beeks was ranked as the Red Sox’ 15th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
Overall, this deal is pretty simple. The Red Sox add a middling starter, who also just happens to be one of the best options on the available market, to their push for the AL pennant. The Rays, who are out of contention at this point, do some retooling, rather than rebuilding, adding a prospect close to the majors that may have some upside as a left-handed starting pitching option.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.