Yankees free agent pros and cons: Nathan Eovaldi
Should the Yankees consider a reunion with Evo?
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in his end-of-season press conference that the rotation will be a focus point for the Yankees this winter, and after looking at potential opt-outs and internal free agents last week, this week we will take a look at three pros and three cons of five possible free-agent options for the Yankees' rotation..
So far, we've profiled two opt-ins, one opt-out, two exclusive negotiators and three qualifying-offer recipients; we'll finish the series Thursday and Friday with two true free agents with local ties, starting today with Nathan Eovaldi.
Back in December 2014, the Yankees and Marlins came together on a five-player deal that brought Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German to the Bronx in exchange for David Phelps, Martin Prado and cash. Four years later, only two of those five have stayed put (German and Prado), and Eovaldi may actually end up having been the biggest "win" of the deal for the Yankees (German has a 5.22 ERA in 100 MLB innings as an up-and-down arm but will be out of Minor League options this season, while Jones hit .215 in 152 plate appearances in 2015 and hasn't played an MLB game since).
Since that deal, though, Eovaldi has pitched for three teams, had a second Tommy John surgery and, most importantly, won one ring with the 2018 Red Sox. He'll be one of the more sought-after free agents on the market after going 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 22 starts this past season, but is he a fit to return to the Yankees?
-Cut and Dried. Eovaldi has thrown at least 100 Major League innings six times in his career, and this year's 3.81 ERA was the second-best mark he had ever posted. His K/9, K/BB ratio and WHIP were all career bests, and a lot of his other peripherals were incredible as well. There may be a lot of explanations, but one easy one is the development of a cutter, which he threw a staggering 32.2 percent of the time in 2018 -- almost as much as his four-seamer, which still had the third-highest average velocity in MLB this year at 97.2 MPH (behind only Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard). As the old adage goes, it's easy to catch up 100 MPH eventually if it doesn't move, but the pitch that worked wonders for CC Sabathia seems to have made Eovaldi a completely different pitcher.
-Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back. Eovaldi may be a slightly different pitcher, but you can't take away his familiarity with the Bronx and the organization. Both Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine are already familiar with his style, pitching coach Larry Rothschild knows the template he'd be working with and his 3.70 career ERA in Yankee Stadium is nearly a half-run lower than his career 4.16 mark, and that doesn't even include his seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3 of the ALDS.
-Battle tested. Eovaldi will only be 29 at the start of next season, but he already has 850 MLB innings under his belt, and 22 1/3 more in a postseason that saw him post a 1.61 ERA for the Red Sox. He had two dominant starts in the ALDS and ALCS, and then selflessly became a reliever in the World Series, throwing scoreless innings in Games 1 and 2 before doing yeoman's work in an emergency six-inning outing in the 18-inning epic that was Game 3. He's exactly the kind of grinder the Yankees could use.
-Bulk Discount. Tommy John surgery is almost routine these days, but two? That's a red flag no matter how good Eovaldi was in 2018. Jonny Venters is living proof that you can survive three and still make it back to the big leagues, but the Yankees already have enough injury concerns/possibilities in their rotation to think twice about adding another.
-Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Eovaldi has the red flags, no doubt, but he's rated by MLB Trade Rumors as the third-best starter available, behind two lefties in Patrick Corbin (29 with ace potential but only one true season of dominance) and Dallas Keuchel (31 and has been an ace but is already moving down the rotation line). He's the top righty available, but to put it in the simplest terms: someone might overpay for Eovaldi, and it might actually be the Red Sox (MLBTR's prediction is four years and $60 million for a return to Boston). With CC Sabathia now back in the fold, the Yankees might feel they're better off going after an enthused Corbin (MLBTR says 6/129!) and a shorter-term second-tier option for the back end of the rotation.
-Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Eovaldi's past in the Bronx may be a helpful factor in the thought process of bringing him back -- but then again, it might not. The Yankees didn't seem too interested in a reunion when Evo was on the trade block this summer (which could also have been the Rays' doing in large part, too), and they actually went out and acquired two other starters and a reliever not named Eovaldi instead, two of which came from division rivals and all of which were more expensive than Eovaldi (even if Minnesota did pick up Lance Lynn's tab). The Yankees know he has a new pitch, but they also know Evo gave them 279 innings that were league-average in 2015 and 2016. Is that enough?