Tomase: Post-deadline slump clarifies Eovaldi’s future, Martinez originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
As recent as the trading deadline, the opportunity to make qualifying offers to JD Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi this fall wasn’t final, but I leaned yes and yes.
The Red Sox declined to trade any of them, suggesting that in addition to the half-hearted playoffs they would do, there would at least be a draft choice in their future if and when they both left free.
In the absolute worst case scenario of each accepting a one-year deal for about $19 million, the Red Sox would just be “stuck” with a pair of All-Stars, one to anchor the rotation and the other the lineup.
Six weeks later, that calculation no longer holds.
Rolling back with the last club of this year is not an option, but making changes costs money. Given Eovaldi’s well-known struggle with injuries and Martinez’s puzzling descent into banjo-hitter, it’s hard to imagine Chaim Bloom and Co. risking more than half of their projected $70 million surplus on the two veterans this winter.
And so that means we don’t make a qualifying offer for fear that they would take it, which in turn means they have to walk away for nothing. On the scale of asset mismanagement, business schools will one day hold seminars on Boston’s no-obligation buy-and-sell trade deadline as the definition of a failed half-measure.
How Eovaldi and Martinez went from deadline chips to potentially worthless in just a month is a lesson in depreciation. Eovaldi’s pace began to drop as he returned from a back injury in mid-July, which no doubt affected his worth, but he pitched anyway. In his final start a day before the August 2 deadline, he turned 6.1 effective innings against the Astros, limiting them to zero earned runs in a 3-2 win.
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Rival contenders showed interest – Eovaldi’s post-season resume speaks for itself – but the Red Sox never found an offer they deemed acceptable. There were worse results than offering Eovaldi and either receiving a design choice or keeping him for a year for relatively little money on top of the rotation.
But Eovaldi only lasted two more starts before neck and shoulder pain forced him back onto the injured list on Aug. 23. The Red Sox insist they plan to restart him, but time is running out and the season is already effectively over.
Given Eovaldi’s extensive injury history – he made just 30 starts in 11 seasons and missed Tommy John’s surgery throughout 2017 – he would always be at risk at 33. But now, with the Red Sox counting on Chris Sale and possibly James Paxton frequently injured next year, they can’t afford another giant question mark on the starting staff. Maybe they can be convinced that his health problems will be solved this winter, but that seems unlikely.
In comparison, Martinez represents a much easier decision. Had he opted out in any of the last three winters, the Red Sox would have let him walk with little more than a handshake and a pat on the back. But Martinez saw his five-year $110 million contract complete, making him one of the best signings in franchise history.
Unfortunately, that player didn’t quite make it to the finish. Although he made his fourth All-Star team in a Red Sox uniform, he hasn’t looked like himself since June. In his last 68 games, Martinez hit only .208 with three homeruns.
If the Red Sox offered him, he’d be mad not to take it, as it’s unlikely any other team would turn in a draft pick to sign him. The Red Sox seem intent on using DH as a glorified banking spot, and that doesn’t work with Martinez on the books at $19 million. The divorce this fall must be clean and final.
It’s enough to make you wonder why Bloom didn’t pull the trigger for either of them when he got the chance, but that’s history now. All we know is that the past six weeks have clarified some questions that were once annoying, but now offer simple solutions.