Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, the two-time Tommy John surgery survivor and recent postseason hero for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, has agreed to return to Boston, sources said Thursday morning.
Eovaldi’s deal is for four years and $67.5 million, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The Athletic was first to report the sides had reached an agreement.
A popular figure in free agency and particularly in Boston, Eovaldi would return to a rotation of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. He’d been rumored to have been engaged as well with the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and others.
Eovaldi, 28, endured his first ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction procedure as a junior at Alvin (Texas) High School, his second as a Yankee in the summer of 2016. He missed the 2017 season while recovering from surgery and returned in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays, and also with a fastball that neared 100 mph. He was traded mid-summer to the Red Sox, for whom he made 12 appearances, 11 of them starts, and pitched to a 3.33 ERA.
And while all of that was fine, his real value – and push into free agency – came in October, when over six appearances (two starts) he was 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA. In Game 3 of the World Series, after pitching an inning in each of the first two games, Eovaldi entered in the 12th inning and did not leave until Max Muncy’s walk-off home run in the 18th. The ninth pitcher of the game for the Red Sox, Eovaldi helped save Boston’s pitching staff for the rest of the series, which the Red Sox won in five games.
Eovaldi was lauded by teammates for his selflessness.
“I felt privileged to be able to watch what Nathan Eovaldi did,” Rick Porcello said. “That was the most incredible pitching performance I’ve ever seen.
“After the game was over I started crying. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch.”
The following day, in the hours before Game 4, Eovaldi volunteered for more.
“I saw him this morning and he was telling people he’s ready to go,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I’m like, ‘Your agent is going to kill me.’”
Eovaldi did not pitch again in the series.
He had, instead, launched himself into a curious free agency, one that carried the hard fastball and the hard cutter he’d picked up just before his second surgery and the splitter than came disguised as a fastball. Also, of course, the uncertainty of a pitcher operating after two Tommy John surgeries, and also one who’d put himself at risk for the good of the ballclub.
Eovaldi was 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA across 111 regular-season innings for the Rays and Red Sox. His strikeouts-per-nine – 8.2 – was a career best. So was his strikeouts-per-walk (5.05). He also has once – in 2014, for the Miami Marlins – made a full season of starts.
The largest contract given to a pitcher with two Tommy John surgeries is believed to be the three-year, $38-million deal given last winter by the Chicago Cubs to Tyler Chatwood, three years removed from his second. Chatwood’s first season in Chicago concluded with him in the bullpen, with command issues and a 5.30 ERA.
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