Most of the attention surrounding the possible moves that the Milwaukee Brewers could make before the trade deadline has, to this point, been focused on adding another hitter. The Brewers have been repeatedly linked to the top rental bat on the market, Manny Machado, and have also been mentioned as a possible suitor for Eduardo Escobar of the Twins or Whit Merrifield of the Royals. Milwaukee’s average of 4.33 runs per game ranks in the bottom half of the National League, and the offense could certainly use a boost.
But the Brewers have also run into some pitching woes of late, although they have been more so due to injuries than to poor performance. Milwaukee’s rotation ranks 11th overall in baseball with a collective 3.89 ERA, but the club has a handful of hurlers on the disabled list. Jimmy Nelson only recently began to throw off a mound while recovering from shoulder surgery and isn’t a sure bet to come back at all this season. Zach Davies still doesn’t have a timetable for his return from shoulder and back woes, and Junior Guerra was just placed on the 10-day disabled list with the dreaded “forearm tightness.” The club is hoping that the #2018BrewersAce will only miss a minimal amount of time, but forearm issues can sometimes be warning signs for Tommy John surgery. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Brewers will field a rotation that includes Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Brent Suter, Wade Miley, and Freddy Peralta in some order.
With that in mind, a report has emerged indicating that Slingin’ David Stearns and company are keeping their eye on a possible addition for the rotation from the American League East. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Milwaukee is one of the teams that is scouting Rays’ starter Nathan Eovaldi. Cafardo also mentions the Yankees and Braves as clubs keeping an eye of Eovaldi, among others.
Eovaldi, 28, was originally an 11th round pick by the Dodgers back in 2008 and has spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with Los Angeles, Miami, the Yankees, and Tampa Bay. He owns a 4.24 ERA across 790.0 career innings in the big leagues, although his 3.89 FIP suggests he’s a more skilled pitcher than his run prevention numbers suggest. Eovaldi has long been a favorite of scouts due to his raw “stuff” and ability to light up the radar gun - he’s averaging 97.3 MPH on his fastball this year - but he’s battled health issues throughout his career and missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Eovaldi didn’t return to active duty until the end of May this season, and has made nine starts with a 4.59 ERA and 45:8 K/BB ratio across 51.0 innings. Take out his most recent start against the Twins, where he went 2.2 innings and allowed nine hits and eight runs, and his numbers look a whole lot better. Eovaldi had logged a 3.35 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 through his first eight starts before the blowup against Minnesota. He has had some notable home run issues this year, coughing up 10 of them already on the season.
It’s seeming less and less likely that the Mets will move Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard this summer, so earlier this week Jeff Sullivan published a post on Fangraphs entitled “Nathan Eovaldi Might Be the Best Starter on the Market.” The addition of a cutter to his repertoire as well as throwing his blazing fastball up in the zone more frequently has helped Eovaldi find success post-surgery, and he also utilizes the Cream City’s favorite pitch - the splitter - as one of his off-speed offerings. Eovaldi signed a one-year deal with an option with Tampa Bay prior to the 2017 season while recovering from his elbow surgery, and he’s making only a $2 mil base salary this season before reaching free agency at year’s end.
The stuff is there for Eovaldi to be a dominant starter, and he’s already made three appearances this season with at least 6 innings pitched and one or fewer hits allowed. Perhaps a move to Milwaukee and an opportunity to work with renowned pitching coach Derek Johnson can help him more consistently tap into his compelling upside. Given his status as a rental coming off of major surgery, the price tag for Eovaldi should be pretty reasonable. The biggest question is whether or not Eovaldi fits into the category of the “rotation leader” that Stearns has previously stated he’s on the lookout for, or if recent circumstances has opened him up to adding more depth to his group of initial out-getters.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs