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Why the Red Sox are targeting Nathan Eovaldi

Rob Bradford
November 09, 2018 - 9:04 am

Think back to when the Red Sox acquired Nathan Eovaldi.

He was a pitcher who was somewhat familiar in these parts because he had been a Yankee, along with the fact he had spent the first chunk of 2018 with American League East foe Tampa Bay. Eovaldi had two Tommy John surgeries. Eovaldi threw hard. Eovaldi had a decent first few months leading into the non-waiver trade deadline. That was it.

Now we sit here still nodding in admiration for what the righty did throughout the postseason, most notably for those final six innings of that 18-inning, Game 3 in the World Series. Eovaldi as defined himself, not only in the history books but in terms of what might be a solution for this Red Sox' pitching staff going forward.

Who knew? Not even the Red Sox.

"The beauty of today’s game is that there is so much untapped potential in players of all shapes and sizes," Red Sox assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister told "I always loved watching Nate pitch and I felt like there was another level like I do with all the pitchers we acquire. What I didn’t know was how amazing a guy he was. His character. His makeup. He’s a family guy. He made some amazing adjustments. He brought to the table his tremendous arm strength. His durability was insane these last couple of months.

"That acquisition happened at a time when Eddie (Rodriguez) got hurt and we were talking about making the team better. We felt like he was the guy who was not only going to be a dominant starter and bridge that gap with Eddie going down but also be a weapon in the postseason in a variety of roles. I think he performed beyond our wildest dreams. That’s just a testament to him, who he is and how hard he works."

Eovaldi isn't likely going to make as much money as Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel in this year's free agent market in large part because of past performance. Despite the fact the 28-year-old righty is younger than either of the aforementioned starters, with less wear and tear, there isn't the track record that often times serves as acquiring clubs' security blanket.

But a sure-fire tell in terms of how the Red Sox view the free agent landscape is where they would put Eovaldi on their power rankings. By all accounts, in large part because of what they uncovered over the season's final three months, Dave Dombrowski and Co. would prioritize the guy with career 44-53 record and 4.16 ERA.

For the Red Sox, this is about what Eovaldi is becoming not what he has been. And while that can be dangerous when allocating free agent dollars, this seems like it might be a unique case.

"His bullpens are a work of art," Bannister said. "He knows exactly where he lands on the mound every time. He works with unbelievable precision. He doesn’t walk people for as hard as he throws, which is an insane combination. He made his curveball better, changing his grip and adding more spin and movement. He kept working on his splitter. He’s got that mid-90’s cutter. He started elevating his fastball more. He just brought everything to the table. To have a reliever in the postseason throwing 100-plus with five well-above-average pitches is the ultimate weapon. It was just a privilege to not only be a coach for him but to watch him work every day."

And it doesn't hurt that there was that one defining moment at Dodger Stadium.

"Everybody talks about your record in one-run games, but it’s totally true that bad teams win by one and good teams win by four. It took everything to beat that guy," the assistant pitching coach added. "He was just out there. He might have thrown another five or seven innings. That’s what it took to beat that guy.

"That guy put it all on the line for his team. He didn’t have to but he did. What he did a year off of his second Tommy John surgery was incredible. Words can’t describe how much respect I have for Nate Eovaldi and what he did for this franchise. I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader going forward."

Related: The strong case to invest in Nathan Eovaldi