2022 Dodgers Trade Deadline Targets: RHP Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox

The Trade Deadline series has already had an old friend and will feature another old friend soon. Now, we’re looking at yet another old friend. This time, it’s Red Sox’s right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. There’s some scuttlebutt about the Dodgers and Red Sox talking deal, and Eovaldi (and friends?) could make sense.

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Eovaldi, 32, was famously the centerpiece of the Hanley Ramirez deal all the way back in 2012 — before this iteration of the weblog existed (ha, you’re old, too!). Most Dodger fans probably remember Eovaldi from Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, when he pitched six innings of relief in that 18-inning affair that ended with Max Muncy‘s walk-off home run … for the Dodgers’ only win of the series. Sigh.

The Red Sox re-signed him that offseason to a 4-year, $68 million deal. He had an injury-shortened 2019, a COVID-shortened 2020 before throwing 182 1/3 quality innings last season (3.75 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 20.9 K-BB%). He missed about a month earlier in the season with a low back inflammation, but hey, who among us, right? He has a 4.30 ERA, 4.73 FIP and 20.5 K-BB% this season. He has seen his average fastball velocity dip by half a mile per hour, but what has been most concerning is that he’s getting hit harder this season.

Oof, that’s rough.

He posted a career-best 88 MPH average exit velocity against last season. This season, he’s in the bottom 3% of the league at 91.2 MPH (before last night’s game, it’s 90 MPH now). He’s never been an exit velocity against darling, but he’s below-MLB average for his career, and that has led to some ugly hard-hit numbers.

One thing Eovaldi has always done well since getting settled in is limiting walks. He has a 4 BB% this season and 6.1 for his career. Some might argue that could contribute to his higher-than-average exit velo numbers because he might be too hittable. When that happens, it usually accompanies a lack of strikeouts. However, Eovaldi has run a K% of 22.2 or better every season since 2018, and it’s at nearly 25% this season. So, maybe a few more pitches out of the zone could help? His Zone% is 45, which is actually down from 47.6% last season. It’s the quality of the pitches in the zone. His slider and cutter are, easily, his two worst pitches. He’s catching way too much of the zone, especially with his cutter. Despite throwing it just 7.7% of the time, it has a .346 batting average against and an unsightly .509 wOBA. I would simply stop throwing the cutter. His slider isn’t much better. He uses it 13.9% of the time and has a .386 BAA and .499 wOBA. He’s given up nine home runs (combined) on those two pitches. He’s given up nine home runs on his other three pitches, combined.

Speaking of his other pitches, he has a 96.2 MPH 4-seam fastball, an 88.2 MPH splitter and 78.9 MPH curveball. While his fastball has been knocked around a bit (but improved from last season), his splitter and curveball are his money pitches. He has a .175 BAA and .197 wOBA against his splitter and .222 BAA/.304 wOBA against his curveball. He throws those two pitches 20.2% and 19.2% of the time, respectively, and if he gets dealt and ditches the slider and cutter (or, at least severely reduces the usage), he could see his numbers turn around.

For a guy consistently near the top of starting pitcher velocity, his recent velocity trend is somewhat concerning.

His start last night, he averaged 94.7 MPH on his heater. It’s his third consecutive start — granted, he’s also three starts back from an IL stint — of averaging less than 95 MPH on his 4-seamer, and his start on June 8 (before the IL stint), he averaged 94. Perhaps he’s just building back up to being a true 96-98 MPH guy as he has been in the past, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

If Eovaldi were acquired, he’d be a safety blanket to help guard against injury (Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw), and regression (Tyler Anderson, Tony Gonsolin), as well as not putting too much on Dustin May, despite the good reports from his rehab from Tommy John surgery. And we know he can pitch out of the bullpen, so he might be able to fill that “2020 Julio Urias” role that they might need in October. Perhaps a reduced workload could actually benefit Eovaldi, or at least help him get healthier for October and his pending free agency.

https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1550621212434382848

Cost

Eovaldi is in the final year of his deal and is owed roughly $7 million the rest of the season. Th Red Sox could also be one-stop shopping, if the Dodgers want to look at a reliever and/or a bat.

Proposal 1

To BOS: Ryan Pepiot
To LA: Eovaldi, Enrique Hernandez, John Schreiber

Schreiber is probably the more valuable of the two arms in this deal, as he’s not a free agent until after the 2026 season. He has a 1.6 ERA, 2.36 FIP and 25.4 K-BB% this season. The Red Sox don’t have to move him, but they could increase their return on Eovaldi if they do. And who doesn’t love Kiké? He’s injured right now, but should be back sometime next month and could give the Dodgers a little boost on the bench. But with Trayce Thompson being surprisingly great, he might not be necessary.

Pepiot might seem like a high price to pay, but with the lack of good starting pitching on the market and inflated price for relievers, this seems like a decent proposal. Schreiber could provide the Dodgers with more value of the next few seasons than Pepiot, so it might be worth it to deal from some strength to address present- and future needs.

Proposal 2

To BOS: Michael Grove, Kody Hoese, Jorbit Vivas
To LA: Eovaldi, J.D. Martinez, Matt Strahm

This could end up being a bigger deal if the Dodgers want someone like Martinez to help with the DH spot. I wanted him back in 2017, before some of his shitty opinions were brought to light. We’ve seen Andrew Friedman acquire guys with worse backgrounds, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they went down that road (assuming they couldn’t get Soto). Martinez, 35, isn’t the hitter he once was in the power department, but he still has a .299/.367/.477 batting line with a 135 wRC+ this season. He’d be a definite upgrade to Justin Turner at DH. Like Eovaldi, he’s a free agent after the year and is owed about $7.6 million for the rest of the season. Strahm is an interesting left-hander who could help stabilize the Dodgers’ unstable middle relief corp. He has a 3.58 ERA, 2.61 FIP and 21.2 K-BB%. He’s good against right-handed hitters as well, so he’s not just a specialist. He’s currently on the IL with a left wrist contusion suffered on July 15 after he was hit by a comebacker by Rays’ catcher Francisco Mejia. He should be back sooner rather than later.

With the Dodgers taking the money off Boston’s hands (and not for the first time), the return isn’t going to match the name value. Grove gives them and arm for September and beyond. They might be able to fix Hoese, though, I’m not optimistic. And Vivas gives them an infield option in a couple years.

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It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox move Eovaldi, as they have face-planted in recent weeks. They could also look to move off other players, which is why I think if the Dodgers were to acquire Eovaldi, a teammate or two would be coming along with him. Eovaldi would fill a need and it would come cheaper than other starting pitching options out there.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.