TODAY: Wright was knocked out of last night’s game when he was struck by a comebacker off the bat of Max Muncy. Per a team announcement, he has been diagnosed with a right foot contusion, but x-rays fortunately came back negative. As Cotillo notes, Wright’s health status bears monitoring, as any long-term injury to the knuckleballer might force Dombrowski to reevaluate his confidence in the club’s end-of-game options.
SATURDAY, 11:08pm: The Red Sox addressed their rotation Saturday with the addition of veteran right-hander Andrew Cashner, whom they acquired from the AL East rival Orioles. There had been a need for another starter in Boston, which has lacked a true complement to Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello for most of the season. The role was supposed to go to Nathan Eovaldi, one of the many heroes of Boston’s 2018 World Series-winning campaign, but the right-hander has seldom pitched since re-signing on a four-year, $68MM contract over the winter.
Eovaldi underwent surgery on his pitching elbow in late April, three weeks into the season, and his recovery has taken far longer than the team anticipated. Now, with just two and a half months left in the campaign, the Red Sox don’t believe Eovaldi has enough time to stretch back out as a starter. Therefore, Eovaldi will return as a closer – a decision the playoff-contending Red Sox hope will give them a legitimate Craig Kimbrel successor for the rest of 2019. And the 28-year-old Eovaldi is finally on the verge of rejoining the club. Eovaldi could slot into Boston’s bullpen “within about a week,” assuming the short rehab stint he embarks on early next week goes well, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Saturday (via Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com).
Eovaldi sputtered out of the gates this year before his surgery, pitching to a bloated 6.00 ERA/7.10 FIP with 6.86 K/9 against 4.71 BB/9 in four starts and 21 innings. But Eovaldi held his own over a much larger sample size a year ago, and he brings a 97 mph fastball to the table that could play up in short outings this summer. If it does, Eovaldi would add a a much-needed end-of-game solution to a maligned bullpen that has tallied as many blown saves as saves (18). Boston’s relief corps hasn’t been a statistical disaster on the whole, though its 12th-place K/BB ratio, 13th-ranked FIP and 16th overall ERA are hardly indicative of a dominant unit.
The Red Sox, including their bullpen, took an 11-2 beating at the hands of their 2018 World Series foes – the Dodgers – on Saturday. While the Sox are a respectable 50-42, they’re currently a game and a half out of a wild-card spot and nine back in the AL East after rolling to 108 wins a season. Nevertheless, with Cashner and Eovaldi set to join Boston’s starting staff for most of the second half, Dombrowski suggested Saturday he could pass on further pickups before the July 31 trade deadline.
“We might (stand pat),” Dombrowski said, who later remarked (via Cotillo), “We like how our club looks, but we’ve liked how our club looks for a long time.”
In regards to his team’s bullpen, Dombrowski pointed to Eovaldi’s imminent return and the recent activation of Steven Wright from an 80-game PED suspension as reasons for contentment. Of course, that was before the Dodgers trounced Wright for three earned runs on three hits in a third of an inning Saturday. The knuckleballer has now surrendered at least one earned run in three of six appearances since his activation, and has yielded six ER on 11 hits (including three homers) in 6 1/3 frames on the season.
Despite Wright’s struggles, if we’re to believe Dombrowski, the righty may be someone Boston leans on down the stretch in lieu of outside help. Even if Dombrowski wants to make more additions to his pitching staff or anywhere else, though, there’s a question of how much more money he’ll be able to spend. The Red Sox are running an estimated luxury tax payroll upward of $245MM after trading for Cashner, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. Exceeding the highest threshold, $246MM, would subject the Red Sox to the harshest penalties – a 75 percent tax on every dollar spent over the limit and a 10-spot fall for their top 2020 draft pick.
Also of great relevance: Owner John Henry said two weeks ago the franchise is “not going to be looking to add a lot of payroll” this summer. With two-plus weeks left before the deadline, we’ll find out soon if Henry sticks by that statement.