The Red Sox moved on from closer Craig Kimbrel in the offseason, but they still haven’t replaced the potential Hall of Famer with a single game-ending stopper. Instead, the club has gotten multiple saves apiece from Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman during a 2019 season that hasn’t gone nearly as well as its 2018 World Series-winning campaign.
With the July 31 trade deadline coming up, the Red Sox are candidates to acquire an established closer for the stretch run, but it appears they’re primed to turn to a more unconventional in-house solution to succeed Kimbrel. They’re planning to use starter Nathan Eovaldi as their closer when he returns from the injured list, Tom Caron of NESN reports.
While the right-handed, hard-throwing Eovaldi was supposed to be a key part of Boston’s rotation this season, injuries have prevented that from happening. After Eovaldi came over in a 2018 trade with the Rays and helped the Red Sox to a title, they brought him back on a four-year, $68MM contract in the winter. Since then, though, the team has received just four starts and 21 innings of 6.00 ERA/7.10 FIP ball from him. Eovaldi underwent elbow surgery April 21 and then suffered a setback June 9 when it looked as if he was nearing a return.
Now, with just a couple months left in the season, the Red Sox seemingly believe they’d be better off deploying Eovaldi in short, game-ending stints than long outings upon his return. As Caron notes, they’d have the benefit of getting Eovaldi back sooner because he wouldn’t have to stretch out to slot back into their rotation. It’s still in question when exactly he’ll make his way back to the majors, however. Moreover, moving him to the bullpen wouldn’t solve the team’s issues at the back of its starting staff.
A full-time relief role is foreign to Eovaldi, who has made 152 of 160 major league appearances as a starter. The hope for the Red Sox is that the move would help stabilize an oft-maligned bullpen, a unit the hated Yankees humiliated over the weekend in London. The Yankees now hold an 11-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East, meaning Boston’s best hope to return to the playoffs may be via wild card. The Red Sox are two back of a spot, though, and with owner John Henry seemingly reluctant to spend on outside reinforcements, the club may be prepared to try its luck with Eovaldi in lieu of a bullpen market with plenty of proven commodities.