John Tomase

Nathan Eovaldi exemplifies the small-market thinking ruining Red Sox

The Red Sox lost Nathan Eovaldi in the interest of cutting costs, and they're paying the price.

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Nathan Eovaldi is what happens when a big-market team thinks small.

There's no question the Red Sox wanted the All-Star right-hander last winter. They made him a qualifying offer and then proposed a three-year contract early in free agency, per The Athletic.

Eovaldi quite reasonably tested free agency in the hopes of scoring a better deal or at least buying himself some leverage. Instead, his market never really materialized and the best the native Texan could do was two years and $34 million from the Rangers around Christmas.

If the Red Sox really wanted him, the solution was obvious: give him the three years they had offered a month earlier. Flex those financial muscles and land him at the price they wanted to pay anyway.

Except that didn't happen. The Red Sox had already replaced Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez with Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Chris Martin. They were nearing a deal with veteran Corey Kluber, too, but remained middle of the pack in payroll after years of being one of the game's biggest spenders. Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, they almost never extend themselves, and so they told Eovaldi they'd moved on.

We now know where that fiscal discipline got them. Kluber signed for one year, which provided the flexibility the front office craves, but at considerable cost: he has been abysmal. Eovaldi, meanwhile, was not only just named to his second All-Star team, he might get the start after going 10-3 with a 2.69 ERA and a league-leading 112.1 innings.

He'll face the Red Sox on Thursday night, his presence a reminder of the goals that have marred the Bloom Era and left the Red Sox in last place for the third time in his four years at the helm.

Speaking to reporters before Tuesday's game, including Chris Cotillo of MassLive, Eovaldi made it clear that the Red Sox were his first choice. The fact that they spurned him after demonstrating legitimate interest only becomes more mystifying by the day.

"I was positive that I'd be able to come back," Eovaldi said. "We stayed in contact with everybody (with the Red Sox) during the negotiation process. We let them know other deals that we were getting, just kind of trying to make sure we kept that door open as long as possible. It got to that point where it was time to move on."

"Baseball is different," he said. "Whether it's going in a different direction or trying to pick up other pieces, things like that. We kept them in the loop with everything that we wanted to do and it was just unfortunate that it wasn't able to work out. I'm happy with where I am now and everything that's been able to happen. You can't always control everything. You just take what life gives you."

Given his injury history, it's not as if Eovaldi is a sure thing to remain healthy, but the Red Sox left themselves particularly open to rotational woes by building their starting staff around the brittle Chris Sale and James Paxton, the fading Kluber, and a pair of young starters in Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock coming off surgery.

Paxton has wildly exceeded expectations, but everyone else is hurt (Houck freakishly, to be fair). Add Eovaldi at his current output, and the Red Sox are comfortably in possession of a wild card spot, and not floundering around .500 looking up at the rest of the division.

It only would've cost them money, but Bloom has a habit of coming up short in negotiations, whether it's for free agents like Jose Abreu and Zach Eflin, or players already on Boston's roster like Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber. The front office's approach feels like the equivalent of trying to win the bidding for a new house by one dollar. You might get lucky, or you might spend the rest of your life in your apartment. If you really want the place, it might cost an extra $20K to leave no doubt, efficiency be damned.

The Red Sox had Eovaldi lined up at a price that wasn't even an extravagance and let him get away in the name of fiscal prudence, an approach that ensures they'll keep living in the basement.

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