When Nathan Eovaldi hits free agency this upcoming winter, it will be a lot different than when he was on the market in 2018.
Eovaldi’s four-year, $68 million contract he signed to remain with the Red Sox that winter felt like a gamble at the time. His performance in that World Series gave him legend status in Boston, but he still was pitcher whose electric stuff historically had been marred by injuries.
The contract has proven to be a bargain, though, as he’s been the Red Sox’s most reliable pitcher over the life of that deal.
With no extension with Boston already hammered out, he’s prepared himself for another contract year.
“I’ve been through it before, I know what helps,” Eovaldi said on WEEI’s “Bradfo Sho” podcast. “In the past, again, just focusing on the little things that I control. If I’m thinking about the end of the year at this point, we’ve got a long season to go. … I just think about it one game at a time. And ultimately, you’re going to have those waves where you’re going to struggle, but you’ve just got to find a way to get out of that struggle as fast as you can and then have more good starts then not, obviously.
“Again, going out there and focusing on the small things, not thinking about the bigger picture. It’s going to be one day at a time. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, I don’t know what a week is going to bring or at the end of the year. Just try to finish the season healthy and hopefully I’ll have good numbers and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Not only has Eovaldi himself shown changes over the last few seasons, but the pitching market has changed around him.
He’s in a small class of starters who nowadays will pitch deep into games. With bullpens being leaned upon more heavily, starters are seeing their salaries get squeezed because they only go a few innings into a game. Conversely, that has put a premium on the Eovaldi types, as they often represent a reprieve for the relievers.
“When you see guys are getting paid a lot more as they get older – back in the day it was you hit that age 32, 33, you’re kind of out of the game. Now guys are starting to get paid more (at that age), I feel like the relievers, their workloads have increased. You don’t just have a closer, you don’t have a setup man, your sixth or seventh inning guy could be that guy and it depends on the part of the lineup you’re facing. It’s just going out there and putting up zeros and that’ll handle itself.”
“You pay your guy a lot to go out there and compete," Eovaldi said. "Other guys, you’re not giving them as much. It comes down to the situation, it comes down to the experience of being out there. I just try to focus on the little things that I can control and for me that helps me out when I’m out there pitching. It’s one pitch at a time and making sure everything’s in sync and that I’m out there and ready to go.
Thus far, the Red Sox haven’t had extension talks with Eovaldi, who will be entering his age-33 season when his next contract kicks in.
It’s not uncommon for pitchers in their early-to-mid 30s to still lock down lucrative, and often multi-year, contracts. Consistently healthy for the first time in a while, Eovaldi feels like there’s plenty in the tank.
“I’ve been hurt for the majority of my career,” Eovaldi admitted. “These last three years we’ve been with the Red Sox, and we’ve been competing and been healthy, that’s the best part. Being able to take the ball every day and not have injuries and not be sore and things like that. Coming into the ballpark, the trainers have done a tremendous job of keeping me healthy and keeping me out there. I still feel like I have a lot left.
“I feel good, my arm feels good, the velo hasn’t dropped, you know what I mean? As long as I feel like I’m not taking a spot from somebody else who deserves it coming up, I feel like I’m (good).”