Happy Chanukah and an early Merry Christmas, Red Sox Nation! Beloved midseason acquisition-turned-postseason legend Nathan Eovaldi has decided to stay where the grass is greenest: at Fenway Park, DUH.
His deal is four years, $67.5 million, the largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher with two Tommy John surgeries.
In an offseason with few desirable free-agent pitchers, it’s a coup for the Red Sox, though not unsurprising; Eovaldi has been open about his desire to stay with his team, and Dave Dombrowski has stated that his goal is to keep as much of the championship crew intact as possible. Can you blame either of them for wanting to keep a good thing going?
After being traded to Boston from Tampa Bay midsummer, Eovaldi immediately impressed, throwing 7 scoreless innings in each of his first two starts. In 12 regular season appearances for the Red Sox (11 starts, 1 relief), Eovaldi posted a solid 3.33 ERA and new career-bests in strikeouts-per-nine (8.2) and strikeouts-per-walk (5.05), but it was in the postseason that he truly shone.
Used as a starter and reliever in October, Eovaldi was incredible, posting a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 postseason frames. Most memorably, he pitched in relief for the majority of Game 3 of the World Series, in which he threw 97 pitches between innings 12 and 18. His third straight game making a relief appearance would end up costing him the chance to start his first World Series game, as Game 3 would become the longest ever in postseason history by innings and hours. I sat at Dodger Stadium for almost eight hours that night, in awe of what I was witnessing, a display of fortitude, skill, and absolute nastiness. And even though Eovaldi ended up giving up a walk-off home run to Max Muncy, he was so magnificent that it had Rick Porcello in tears. Porcello, who’d started the game hours earlier and who Eovaldi surpassed in both pitch count and innings that night, said:
“I felt priviliged to be able to watch what [he] did. That was the most incredible pitching performance I’ve ever seen… I started crying… Every pitch. He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch, and it was special. It was a lot of fun to watch. That’s the epitome of reaching down deep.” (MLB.com)
His performance had every pitcher on the team begging Alex Cora to let them start Game 4, including Eovaldi himself. That really should tell you everything you need to know about Nathan Eovaldi and this Red Sox team.
In my heart, Nathan Eovaldi won that game. And I’m so proud and happy that he’s staying in Boston. Players like him are special, the kind who play their heart out every second, give it their all, show up for their teammates; Nathan Eovaldi is of a rare breed. And now he’s ours for four more years.