While our trade-rumor attention has been mostly spun in the direction of Zach Britton on the relief side and Jacob deGrom on the “a boy can dream” side, another pitcher might make more sense for the Cubs than anybody else: Nathan Eovaldi.
The 28-year-old right-hander is having a solid, if unspectacular season for the Rays, having made 10 starts with a 4.26 ERA and 4.28 FIP. Back at the beginning of July, Brett discussed word that the Cubs were one of four teams scouting Eovaldi (along with the Phillies, Red Sox, and Braves), and much of what he said then still applies:
Eovaldi has made just seven starts this year, debuting at the end of May thanks to a surgery to remove “loose bodies” in his elbow to begin the season, and then subsequent oblique soreness while gearing up. He’s more or less been fantastic in those seven starts with one huge exception – his eye-popping 1.96 HR/9. Maybe there’s some flukiness there, but given his injury history, you do wonder if he’s simply become susceptible to the long ball.
This is Eovaldi’s first season back from that second Tommy John surgery and flexor surgery, and he’s making $2 million before hitting free agency after the season.
Trading for him at this point, given the surgeries, the loose bodies from earlier this year, the home run issues, and the unproven long-term track record is a gamble, to say the least. The upside there is significant – he’s got the stuff to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter immediately, and his velocity is back – but you might wind up with a guy who gives you a couple homer-filled starts and then breaks again.
If you’re wondering how Brett got “more or less fantastic” from Eovaldi back then – he’s now got an ERA over 4.25 – know that he had an absolute meltdown in Minnesota just two games ago, allowing eight earned runs in 2.2 IP, ruining his ERA in the process.
But given that the start he made before that was a 7.0 inning, one-hit shutout with no walks and 9 Ks *and* the start after that was a 6.0 innings, 1ER, no-walk, 8-K performance, I’d say Minnesota was nothing more than a fluke. Indeed, his 3.15 ERA and 4.02 FIP in the other nine starts are probably closer to what you could expect from him the rest of the season.
And all of that is a precursor to this news from MLB.com: “His stuff right now is better than it’s been at any point in his career,” one talent evaluator said. “There’s the health history, which is a drawback; just how many bullets does he have for the rest of the season? But what he’s bringing to the table right now, he’s a difference-maker. Among the teams that could make a move for Eovaldi? The Cubs, who recently had special assistant Jim Benedict watching the Rays for a week.”
Given Eovaldi’s expected price tag (which could be low, given that he’s a somewhat risky short-term move), expiring contract, and remaining upside, he feels like one perfect target for this particular Cubs team (who will otherwise have a very full rotation next season) at this moment in time. I’d love to see them seriously pursue him over the next week and half, and, given Benedict’s prominence in the organization, I’d say it’s fair to believe the Cubs are legitimately interested.