Tomase: Post-deadline malaise clarifies futures of Eovaldi, Martinez originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
As recently as the trade deadline, the possibility of making qualifying offers to J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi this fall wasn't definite, but I leaned yes and yes.
The Red Sox refused to trade either of them, which suggested that in addition to whatever half-hearted playoff push they might make, there'd at least be a draft pick in their future if and when both left in free agency.
In the absolute worst-case scenario that each accepted one-year deals at roughly $19 million, the Red Sox would simply be "stuck" with a pair of All-Stars, one to anchor the rotation and the other the lineup.
Six weeks later, that calculus no longer holds.
Running it back with this year's last-place club is not an option, but making changes requires money. Given Eovaldi's familiar struggles with injuries and Martinez's mystifying descent to banjo hitter, it's hard to imagine Chaim Bloom and Co. risking more than half of their projected $70 million surplus this winter on the two veterans.
And so that means tendering neither a qualifying offer for fear that they might take it, which in turn means letting them walk away for nothing. On the asset mismanagement scale, business schools one day will teach seminars on Boston's noncommittal buy-and-sell trade deadline as the definition of a failed half measure.
How Eovaldi and Martinez went from deadline chips to potentially worthless in barely a month is a lesson in depreciation. Eovaldi's velocity started dipping when he returned from a back injury in mid-July, which undoubtedly impacted his value, but at least he was pitching. In his final start a day before the Aug. 2 deadline, he spun 6.1 effective innings vs. the Astros, limiting them to zero earned runs in a 3-2 victory.
Rival contenders expressed interest -- Eovaldi's postseason resume speaks for itself -- but the Red Sox never found an offer that they deemed acceptable. There were worse outcomes than tendering Eovaldi and either receiving a draft pick or keeping him for one year at relatively short money atop the rotation.
But Eovaldi lasted only two more starts before neck and shoulder pain forced him back to the injured list on Aug. 23. The Red Sox insist they intend for him to start again, but time is running short and the season is already effectively over.
Given Eovaldi's extensive injury history -- he has only made 30 starts twice in 11 seasons and missed all of 2017 to Tommy John surgery -- he was always going to be a risk at age 33. But now, with the Red Sox counting on the oft-injured Chris Sale and possibly James Paxton next year, they can't afford another giant question mark on the starting staff. Maybe they can be convinced that his health issues will be resolved this winter, but that seems unlikely.
By comparison, Martinez represents a much easier decision. Had he opted out in any of the last three winters, the Red Sox would've let him walk with little more than a handshake and pat on the back. But Martinez actually saw his five-year, $110 million contract through to completion, making him one of the best free-agent signings in franchise history.
Unfortunately, that player didn't quite reach the finish line. Even though he made his fourth All-Star team in a Red Sox uniform, he hasn't looked like himself since June. Over his last 68 games, Martinez is hitting just .208 with three home runs.
If the Red Sox tendered him, he'd be crazy not to take it, since it's unlikely another team would surrender a draft pick to sign him. The Red Sox seem intent on using DH as a glorified bench spot, and that doesn't work with Martinez on the books for $19 million. The divorce this fall should be clean and final.
It's enough to make you wonder why Bloom didn't pull the trigger on deals for either of them when he had the chance, but that's history now. All we know is that the last six weeks have provided clarity on a couple of questions that were once vexing, but now offer straightforward solutions.