ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox enhanced their thin starting rotation for a playoff run, obtaining right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade for minor league lefty Jalen Beeks.
Eovaldi had been scheduled to start the Rays’ game against the New York Yankees on Wednesday but was scratched about two hours before game time.
“I assumed there was a possibility, of course, especially where I am in my career and the way my contract was for this year,” Eovaldi said before leaving Tropicana Field. “I was assuming that I would be traded, but as for what team it would be, I wasn’t thinking about that at all.”
Eovaldi can become a free agent after this season.
It didn’t matter to the Red Sox that Eovaldi may not be part of the team beyond 2018. He throws hard and can fill out a rotation that features Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price.
“He’s been pitching very well,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’ve had some starting pitching injuries. He gives us depth in that regard. He’ll start in the rotation for us at this time. He’s also a guy that can slip into the bullpen if that ends up happening later on in the year.”
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is sidelined with a right ankle sprain, and Drew Pomeranz (1-4, 6.91 ERA) is still trying to bounce back from a biceps strain that kept him on the disabled list for two months before his return on Tuesday night.
The deal was announced less than 12 hours after Boston’s main division rival, the Yankees, obtained reliever Zach Britton from Baltimore. As a form of response, the Red Sox snagged a starter with 144 games of big league experience.
“Good teams find a way to get better,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “We feel very comfortable with him. He’s a guy whose stuff is outstanding. He’s been throwing the ball well. We feel he is going to be good for us.”
Eovaldi returned this season following Tommy John surgery in August 2016. He’s 3-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 10 starts after starting the 2018 season on the disabled list following arthroscopic surgery on his elbow.
The 28-year old is well aware of the New York-Boston rivalry, going 23-11 with a 4.45 ERA in 51 games while playing for the Yankees in 2015-16.
“Those games are definitely exciting,” Eovaldi said. “The fans are … it’s kind of one of those indescribable tension is always high and it’s always a good series.”
And now, the Red Sox have Eovaldi on their side.
“He’s been part of the pennant race in the AL East. He pitched in New York,” Dombrowski said. “He’s been part of the experience. There’s a lot of things we like.”
Eovaldi has averaged 96.9 mph on his fastball this season, according to Statcast. He has allowed more homers (11) than walks (eight), and has 53 strikeouts over 57 innings.
The division-leading Red Sox entered Wednesday five games ahead of the Yankees.
Tampa Bay made a second deal involving a pitcher after beating the Yankees 3-2, sending right-hander Matt Andriese to Arizona for minor league catcher Michael Perez and minor league righty Brian Shaffer.
The Rays are looking to add organizational depth and could make more moves possibly involving veterans like opening-day starter Chris Archer and AL All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos.
“I think our history is our history, trading players, but we’re not going to do things just to do them,” Tampa Bay general manager Erik Neander said. “There has to be a purpose to them. We’re nearing the point with the young players who have come up and have graduated to our big club that at some point you’ve got to start looking to build. “