The Boston Red Sox are doing all they can to prop open their World Series window.
Boston made a bold move Thursday, reportedly re-signing right-handed pitcher and playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year contract worth nearly $70 million.
That’s quite a commitment both in terms of years and money for a pitcher who already has had Tommy John surgery twice and has eclipsed 155 innings in a season just once in his career. It’s a heavy financial investment for a pitcher who’s never been to an All-Star Game, let alone finished in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting.
But at the risk of overvaluing Eovaldi’s dominant October, re-signing the pitcher potentially benefits the Red Sox in both the short and the long term.
Eovaldi’s tantalizing ceiling, which was on display during the playoffs, apparently was too much for the Sox to pass up. Obviously, if he’s consistently anything close to the pitcher he was in the playoffs, he’ll be a bargain. That would require a sharp incline in career performance from Eovaldi, but even if he can’t replicate his playoff form — four earned runs in 22 1/3 innings — it’s easy to become enamored with the stuff of a pitcher who can bring it at 100 mph with a devastating cutter.
In the short term, gives the Red Sox a better chance of maximizing their championship window. It’s that simple. His ability to both start and pitch out of the bullpen gives him immense value to the Red Sox, as we saw this past fall. Considering Boston is returning just about the entirety of its 108-win ballclub in 2019, it makes sense to retain Eovaldi given how willing and able he is to wear multiple hats when the chips are down.
But the Red Sox didn’t make this deal with just the 2019 playoffs in mind. Boston is going to have some tough financial decisions to make in the coming years. Chris Sale is only under contract through next season. The same is true for Rick Porcello. Whether they re-sign either of those players or both remains to be seen, and there are matters complicating the case for both, but at least the Red Sox can fall back on Eovaldi and hope he uses the 2018 playoff run as a springboard to the next level of his career. It’s a risk, a pricey one at that, but that’s the cost of doing business right now.
But it’s not like Eovaldi is a financially crippling burden. Some of Boston’s most bloated contracts are coming off the books. The Sox no longer owe Hanley Ramirez $22 million per season, and the $19 million annual albatross that is Pablo Sandoval’s contractual commitment ends after 2019. According to the @RedSoxPayroll Twitter account, Boston “only” has $110.38 million tied up in 2020, and that includes Eovaldi’s figure.
The Red Sox are going to need some financial flexibility moving forward as they’ll likely attempt to re-sign some of their younger core players, who won’t come cheap. But it’s unlikely Eovaldi’s contract gets too much in the way of that happening, especially for a big-market team like the Red Sox, and if he performs at a level anywhere close to what we saw in 2018, he’ll be more than worth it moving forward.