Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through Twitter, Facebook, email, his Friday chat, and any other outlet you prefer. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.
Who would you rather have long-term on the Red Sox, Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello?
Technically, this one doesn’t come from a reader, though in a sense it does. I wanted to ask this question after seeing some of the responses to my column Tuesday regarding whether the Red Sox would be making a mistake to sign Nathan Eovaldi to a deal in the projected $15 million per year range, if not higher.
The responses overwhelmingly said the Red Sox should sign him, even at a steep rate and without much regard for other bills coming due soon. I get that. He was everything you’d want a Red Sox player to be in the postseason – clutch, selfless, and damn near dominating every time he took the mound. Our most recent memory of watching him pitch is one that won’t be forgotten. He owns a permanent place in Red Sox lore.
He also happens to throw 100-plus miles per hour, and he’s still in his prime at 28 (he’ll be 29 in February). There’s a chance that he’ll be a better pitcher in his 30s than he ever was in his 20s. And frankly, that’s not that much of achievement. When he’s been healthy during his seven-year career, Eovaldi has been pretty much a league-average pitcher, with a career 98 adjusted ERA and a 4.16 ERA. His best days may be ahead, though I doubt he can do anything that will top October.
I was surprised that some respondents said they’d rather keep him at the expense of Rick Porcello, whose contract is up at the end of 2019. Porcello isn’t the flashiest pitcher – he’s basically a conventional version of Tim Wakefield – but he has had a far better career than Eovaldi — his most similar pitcher through age 29 is Dennis Eckersley.
A major part of that is durability – Porcello’s career ERA is slightly higher, but he has thrown at least 162 innings in every season of his 10-year career, while Eovaldi has surpassed 162 innings once. But over a long season, durability even from a slightly above-average pitcher (and one who has won a Cy Young award at that) is important. Porcello is slightly more than a year older than Eovaldi, and was pretty gutsy in his own right coming out of the bullpen in the postseason.
To me, Porcello is the safer pick than Eovaldi to sign long-term, and he’s also the better pick. I hope the Red Sox retain both pitchers, but if they keep just one, Porcello makes more sense. Also, they should probably re-sign Chris Sale at some point.
But what do you guys think? Would you prefer the Red Sox keep Nathan Eovaldi or Rick Porcello long term if it can be just one? I’ll hear you in the comments.