Nathan Eovaldi

It sounds like every player you want the White Sox to get is going to end up on the Phillies

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USA TODAY

It sounds like every player you want the White Sox to get is going to end up on the Phillies

White Sox fans don't normally need to dedicate too much brain space to worrying about the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies play in the NL East, nowhere near the AL Central, and since reaching back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009 (they won the first), they haven't demanded much postseason attention, either.

But the Phillies seem poised, if you believe all the reports simmering on the Hot Stove, to be everyone's — including the apparently aggressive White Sox — main competition this offseason.

You want the White Sox to sign Bryce Harper? Oh well, too bad, everyone thinks he's going to end up on the Phillies. OK, how about Manny Machado? Yeah, the Phillies want him, too. Jeez, what about Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller or Nathan Eovaldi? Phillies. Lord, well at least the White Sox can land a big fish via trade, right? Well, actually, the Phillies are going after those guys, too.

You've got to be ph'ing kidding.

The Phillies owner has already declared his intention to spend big and "maybe even be a little stupid about it," a good sign that his club could end up winning several bidding wars that the financially flexible White Sox might be involved in. In specific regards to Harper, The Athletic's Jayson Stark wrote "it’s amazing how many people inside this sport almost assume that the Phillies will be the highest bidder in this auction." The South Siders are reportedly interested in Harper, Machado and Eovaldi, the first two of which are expected to receive a couple of the biggest contracts in baseball history. But even if Rick Hahn's front office seems willing to spend, can anyone compete with "stupid" spending?

If the Phillies end up doing what they seem so intent on doing and land not one but multiple big-ticket items this winter, they'll be instant contenders. But while that might leave teams like the White Sox without a date to this offseason's dance, it could provide a promising template for future offseasons — because it wasn't long ago the Phillies were a rebuilding team themselves.

Yes, the Phillies, now poised to take the baseball world by storm, just spent the past six seasons with sub-.500 records. They haven't finished higher than third in the NL East since their run of five straight division titles ended in 2011. And so, rebuild. That process has worked, to a degree, with the Phillies looking last season like one of baseball's fun, young teams on the verge of contention. Problem is they're still on that verge after nosediving in the second half and missing the playoffs yet again.

But that's where what Hahn calls "finishing pieces" come in. The Phillies made a couple big additions last offseason in Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana, though they might be trying to move on from the latter. They've got a young core of guys — Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Seranthony Dominguez — that they want to bolster and bolster in a big way. Harper, Machado, Corbin, whoever. Those are "finishing pieces," the cappers to a rebuilding effort that vault a team over the top.

The White Sox will be there one day. They might be trying to add "finishing pieces" now, while they have the opportunity to do so with a talent like Harper or Machado, before the waves of highly touted prospects starts washing up on the South Side, but they still fall into that category. Whether they do it this offseason, next offseason or in an offseason after that, that time is coming. And given the White Sox financial flexibility, it's not at all difficult to envision them having an offseason in which they add multiple "finishing pieces" of a high caliber.

But this winter, they'll have competition, every team in the game will have competition, because the Phillies are there now.

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White Sox among a whole bunch of teams reportedly interested in Nathan Eovaldi

White Sox among a whole bunch of teams reportedly interested in Nathan Eovaldi

The White Sox have already been linked to the two biggest names on this winter’s free-agent market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. And now they’ve been mentioned as one of a host of teams interested in one of the top free-agent starting pitchers, as well.

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo listed the White Sox as one of the “early suitors” for Nathan Eovaldi. But they’re not at all alone, with Cafardo including the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants as other members of that group.

That’s a lot of competition.

It’s not terribly surprising to hear the White Sox have apparent interest in Eovaldi, as they’ve publicly stated starting pitching as a team need they’ll be addressing this offseason. They have two holes in their 2019 starting rotation thanks to Michael Kopech’s recovery from Tommy John surgery and James Shields’ departure. One way or another, the White Sox will have to fill those holes, though their financial flexibility gives them the option of going with a couple one-year fill-ins and waiting for their young arms to fill out the group in 2020, or adding someone for both the short and long terms.

Eovaldi would fall into the latter category after his breakout second half and postseason with the Red Sox, who acquired him in a midseason trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. After coming to Boston, Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 54 innings. In the playoffs, he allowed only four earned runs over six appearances totaling 22.1 innings. That postseason run was highlighted by his six innings of one-run ball in the marathon Game 3 of the World Series.

All that success in a Red Sox uniform will likely get him a nice payday this winter, and perhaps that success is why, as Cafardo reported, Eovaldi “would love to stay in Boston.”

But it is worth noting that Eovaldi’s numbers prior to last summer’s trade were not nearly as wonderful. Before he missed the 2017 season while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, he turned in a 4.42 ERA in 84 appearances, 81 of those starts, from 2014 to 2016 with the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees. His 8.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 were good showings in 2018, but during that three-season stretch, those numbers were 6.8 and 2.5, respectively.

With Eovaldi coming off a career season, however — a season that saw him throw harder than he has at any other point in his career, a Tommy John success story — it’s no shock that interest in high around the league. As is the case with any top free agent, the rebuilding White Sox would likely have to get Eovaldi to buy into planned long-term success versus the ability to win multiple championships right now.

But they’re apparently interested, another potential example of their seeming willingness to land a big fish this offseason.

White Sox free-agent focus: Nathan Eovaldi

White Sox free-agent focus: Nathan Eovaldi

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.

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