This sounds callous, but here's hoping Nathan Eovaldi just made his last start in a Red Sox uniform.
Nothing personal. He came up huge in the 2018 postseason and he's a nice guy, but as long as the Red Sox rely on him to anchor a spot atop their rotation, they're going to find themselves perpetually disappointed.
In his final turn of the 2020 season, the flame-throwing right-hander delivered the kind of outing that has made him forever tantalizing over the last decade.
Facing the fading Orioles, he threw five fastballs of at least 100 mph, recorded 18 swings and misses, and struck out eight over six shutout innings. When he's on his game, his four-year, $68 million contract feels like a bargain. When he's not, Dave Dombrowski loses his job.
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But save for two transcendent weeks in October of 2018, Eovaldi hasn't been defined by his high points. That old Bill Belichick adage about availability equaling reliability has always been his undoing, and there's no reason to think that will change now that he's 30.
So if Chaim Bloom can move Eovaldi in a trade for another starter this winter, or even just dump the final two years on his contract, he should leap at the opportunity.
Eovaldi has made 30 starts in a season exactly once since breaking in with the Dodgers in 2011, and that came in 2014 when he went 6-14 in Miami and allowed an NL-leading 223 hits. Otherwise, he's generally good for about 20 starts a year, a maddeningly insufficient number for a supposed horse.
His injuries run the gamut from Tommy John surgery (twice) to loose bodies in his elbow to two other elbow surgeries to a right-side injury to the calf strain that limited him to nine starts in this 60-game season.
That projects to 24 starts in a normal season, which frankly sounds a little high, because with Eovaldi, there's always something.
It's not all bad, though, because it's never that, either. Over his final three starts after returning from the calf injury, Eovaldi went 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 14 innings, leaving his final line at 4-2, 3.72. What's mystifying is how he never misses any bats, despite throwing harder than Nolan Ryan. It wasn't until 2019 that he finally averaged more than a strikeout an inning, and his lifetime number of 7.1 defies reason. He is all too often less than the sum of his parts.
He'll keep getting chances, though, because the stuff is electrifying. On any given night, he can feature five 'plus' pitches -- a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, slider, and split. And his velocity isn't going anywhere. His fastball has averaged at least 97 mph in six of the last seven seasons, including this one.
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As I cite these numbers, I'm talking myself into keeping him around, but we should know by now not to be seduced. What's more important to the Red Sox in 2021 is gaining additional payroll flexibility and getting younger. Moving on from Eovaldi could help accomplish both goals, especially if there's a club out there that values his postseason pedigree.
For what it's worth, he feels great heading into the winter.
"I'm going to treat the offseason as I would any other offseason," said Eovaldi. "I feel really good going into the offseason, so that's nice. Usually by this time, my arm feels a little bit tired, my body feels tired. But right now, I feel really fresh. And obviously it's disappointing that we're not going to the playoffs, things like that, but going into the offseason now, treat it like any other offseason and come back ready to go next year."
In a perfect world, he'd do his pitching somewhere else. With a lifetime record below .500 and a lifetime ERA over 4.00, he is what he is, to paraphrase another football coach. Pitching is forever at a premium, and the Red Sox are already Eovaldi's fifth organization.
Someone out there will be willing to roll the dice again, and Chaim Bloom should let them.