Fresh off an encounter with Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Astros may want to consider making an offer to the impending free-agent during the offseason.
If certain events transpire, the Astros could lose sixty percent of their 2018 starting rotation. Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton are free-agents. The short-term outlook for Lance McCullers hinges on the health of his right elbow, which already forced him to miss a large portion of the second half. For a staff that was one of the best in baseball this year, the possibility of losing three proven starters is worrisome. As such, general manager and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow and the club’s front office may need to shore up the rotation during the offseason.
Even if Houston loses the services of Keuchel, McCullers, and Morton, they still have options.
For one, Houston could look internally to fill the holes. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock both have a proven track record as starting pitchers. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is rapidly rising the ranks, and he has the potential to be an ace for the Astros. However, he is only 21 years-old and it is unreasonable to expect him to reach his full potential upon his major league debut. Josh James wowed us repeatedly in the regular season and postseason with a fastball that could reach over 100 MPH. Framber Valdez provided quality innings at a time when McCullers and Morton were unavailable. Another top prospect, J.B. Bukauskas, is taking steps to eventually reach the majors.
A team with championship aspirations in 2019 like the Astros can’t afford to wait for young pitchers to figure it out, though. Even if McHugh and Peacock are moved back into the rotation, the Astros could still need one more starter. Hence the suggestion of looking for external upgrades without compromising the farm system.
One name that caught attention throughout the baseball world lately was Nathan Eovaldi of the Red Sox. In a recent interview with ESPN 97.5 in Houston, Buster Olney of ESPN noted the right-hander and Astros “would be a perfect fit.”
You don’t say?
A pairing between the two parties, on paper, makes sense. Eovaldi’s four-seam fastball was one of the fastest in the game this year with an average velocity of 97.1 MPH. He generated his fair share of groundballs — 45.6% — while pitching for the Rays and Red Sox. Knowing pitching coach Brent Strom‘s reputation with helping pitchers reach new heights, the possibility of adding Eovaldi is an intriguing one. Despite undergoing TWO Tommy John surgeries in his career, he rebounded with a 3.81 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 111 innings in 2018. Oh, he is still pitching strong in the postseason as Boston aims for its first World Series title since 2013.
The key issue to any team signing Eovaldi will center around his health. Two Tommy John surgeries is nothing to sneeze at. Although his situation has similarities to Morton’s a few years ago, it is also different as Morton was coming off a lower body injury when he signed with Houston. As such, Eovaldi may have a difficult experience finding a team willing to pay him his perceived value. Whether the Red Sox, or any team, feels comfortable with giving him a lot of money and a long-term commitment is unknown. It is also no secret that Boston has deeper pockets than Houston, and he may not be the type of pitcher to get into a bidding war over.
Eovaldi deserves an opportunity to maximize his potential earnings on the open market. If he happens to sign with Houston, then that’s great. The Astros should at least inquire with the Alvin, Texas native about a deal with his hometown club. If not, more power to him. Multiple clubs figure to be interested in him. On pure stuff, he may be one of the top pitchers on the market, which would drive up his price. One last point on the subject: the Red Sox cannot extend him a qualifying offer as Eovaldi was an impending free-agent and they acquired the right-hander in-season from Tampa Bay. For any club looking to add his arm to their pitching staff, this fact is notable. After all, teams value their draft picks and they have to compete with everyone else for Eovaldi’s services.