AUG. 19: The Yankees announced today that Eovaldi underwent Tommy John surgery and also had his right flexor tendon repaired during the operation. Yankees head physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad performed the procedure, which figures to sideline Eovaldi for the remainder of this season and the entirety of the 2017 campaign as well.
AUG. 16: Yankees righty Nathan Eovaldi is set to undergo surgery to repair both a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, ESPN New York’s Wallace Mathews was among those to report (Twitter links). The pair of procedures will prevent him from pitching in 2017.
The news could well spell the end of Eovaldi’s tenure with the Yankees. He is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility, and will surely command at least some kind of a raise on his current $5.6MM salary. Unless New York looks to work out some kind of multi-year arrangement, then, Eovaldi will likely be non-tendered this fall.
Presuming that Eovaldi is fitted with a new UCL as part of the work being done, this will be his second trip through the Tommy John process — with his first coming during his amateur days. That prior procedure increased the 26-year-old’s likelihood of requiring Tommy John surgery this year, as MLBTR contributor Bradley Woodrum explained in his recent statistical study. That — along with the concurrent flexor tendon injury — also likely means that he’ll face a longer and more difficult road back than a typical, first-time TJ patient.
This crushing injury brings a disappointing end to what had already been a frustrating campaign. Eovaldi averaged 97.0 mph with his fastball and ran up a 9.3% swinging strike rate — both personal highs — but managed only a 4.76 ERA over his 124 2/3 innings. Despite a 49.6% groundball rate, Eovaldi surrendered a lot of hard contact and coughed up 1.66 home runs per nine innings.
Long an intriguing talent, Eovaldi has not yet managed to fully harness his gifts at the major league level. He has never previously had home run issues — quite the contrary, in fact — but still underperformed his fairly promising peripherals in each of the last two years, when ERA estimators valued him as a sub-4.00 pitcher.
Eovaldi carries a 4.21 ERA over his 739 lifetime innings, though a 3.85 career FIP also leads to a solid accumulation of 9.3 fWAR. That kind of output makes him a useful back-of-the-rotation arm with some room to grow, but it’s fair to wonder whether the bullpen lies in his future. After all, Eovaldi’s big-time fastball would likely play up in a relief role, where he could also limit his often-inconsistent secondary offerings and reduce the toll on his arm. And over his career, Eovaldi has limited batters to a sub-.700 OPS the first and second times through the order, with that number shooting up to .887 for hitters seeing him the third time in a day.