This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.
Few free agents to-be made their mark on the postseason like Nathan Eovaldi. A starting pitcher by trade, he stepped into a relief role for the Boston Red Sox in each of the first three games of the World Series, highlighted by his six innings of one-run ball in that marathon Game 3, the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic.
That was the exclamation point on a great run since the Red Sox acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays in a midseason trade. His numbers after arriving in Boston were very good: a 3.33 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 12 walks in 12 appearances, 11 of which were starts. That solid performance for the World Series champs earned him what’s expected to be a large number of suitors this winter.
It’s hard to argue that the White Sox wouldn’t be a nice fit. They’re in the market for starting pitching, needing to fill a pair of holes in their starting rotation due to Michael Kopech’s recovery from Tommy John surgery and James Shields’ departure. Eovaldi’s just 28, lining him up nicely with the team’s long-term plans. And as an added bonus, he’s a Tommy John success story, throwing harder now than at any other point in his seven-year big league career. Kopech likely doesn’t need a confidence boost, but Eovaldi could be a nice guiding hand in the battle back from the surgery.
There are a few flags — they're not bad enough to be red flags, though I’m not sure what color they’d be; pink, maybe? — with Eovaldi, chiefly the fact that his career numbers weren’t that great prior to the second half of 2018. He missed the entire 2017 campaign while in recovery mode, and from 2014 to 2016 with the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees, he turned in a 4.42 ERA in 84 appearances, 81 of those starts. His 8.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 were good showings in 2018, but during that aforementioned three-season stretch, those numbers were 6.8 and 2.5, respectively.
Those numbers alone shouldn't stop Eovaldi from getting a deserved payday. But they’re worth noting to some White Sox fans who might want the South Siders to make a run at him.
Jacob deGrom was excellent for the New York Mets in 2018, and his sensational campaign was rewarded Wednesday with the NL Cy Young Award.
The Mets' ace led baseball with a 1.70 ERA and struck out 269 batters in 217 innings. The other end of that spectrum was Lucas Giolito, who in his first full season in the big leagues had the highest ERA in baseball (among qualified pitchers) at 6.13. He struck out 125 guys in 173.1 innings.
It would seem to be two dramatically different seasons, but in one area the two were very much the same. Just look at this factoid dug up by ESPN's Sarah Langs:
Jacob deGrom: MLB-best 1.70 ERA. Mets went 14-18 in his starts & he went 10-9— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) November 14, 2018
Lucas Giolito: 6.13 ERA, worst in MLB. He went 10-13 & White Sox were 14-18 in his starts
That’s the same number of pitcher wins and same team record... for the best and worst pitchers in MLB.
That's right, the White Sox were just as good in Giolito's starts as the Mets were in deGrom's starts, and the two pitchers finished with an identical number of victories on the season.
So if there was still any doubt that the pitcher win has become a meaningless stat, this ought to erase it.
That's not to come down on Giolito, who said he learned an awful lot from his struggles during the White Sox rebuilding season, lessons the team expects will benefit him down the road in seasons when the White Sox are contending for championships. Instead, it's to point out that the pitcher win, which has long since fell out of favor as a stat used to analyze how good someone is, is officially dead. After all, deGrom ranked 47th in wins and still managed to be arguably the game's best pitcher last season.
Obviously deGrom had no control over what the rest of his Mets teammates did in games he started. He allowed an average of fewer than two runs every time he took the mound. The Mets averaged fewer than three and a half runs in games deGrom started, more than half a run fewer than they averaged over the course of the 162-game season.
White Sox fans familiar with the Jose Quintana Era can relate.
Again, Giolito is expected to improve with experience as his career goes on. And it's important to remember that 2018 was never supposed to be about what his numbers looked like at the end but what they'll look like in the future.
Another lesson to take from 2018, though? The pitcher win is deader than disco.