The trade deadline is under two months away, but the Chicago Cubs are already scouring the market for upgrades to their starting rotation.
According to Julie DiCaro of the Score, the Cubs are monitoring the New York Yankees’ hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi. However, no deal appears imminent at this time. After one Twitter user asked what sort of return package the Cubs offer, DiCaro noted that talks are in the “very very early stages.”
Eovaldi, 26, is pitching well through the first two months of 2016. In his 10 starts, Eovaldi owns a 6-2 record with a 3.71 ERA in 60-and-two-thirds innings. The Texas native has been outstanding following a rough month of April. Since May 7, Eovaldi has gone 5-0 with 2.03 ERA in 31 innings.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) May 3, 2016
A lot has been made of Eovaldi’s evolving repertoire of pitches. Per Sports Illustrated, Eovaldi’s increased usage of his splitter and slider — in addition to his fastball that averages a blistering 96.9 mph, according to FanGraphs — has led to an increase in strikeouts (8.5 K/9) and a decrease in walks (2.2 BB/9).
“It’s made me a different pitcher,” Eovaldi told the New York Post about his splitter following his last outing, a 2-0 win over the Rays in Tampa Bay.
“I feel like I have command of my offspeed pitches where I can get out of situations now, as opposed to last year where I had to rely heavily on my fastball. And I feel I can throw that split in any count.”
Eovaldi has made a strong case to be considered the ace of the Yankees’ staff. Michael Pineda and Luis Severino have struggled mightily, with Severino being sent down to Triple-A on Sunday. While CC Sabathia has been solid the last few weeks and Masahiro Tanaka has also pitched well, Eovaldi has been the team’s most consistent starter.
“Nasty Nate” has also thrown some spectacular games, including a near no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in late-April.
Nathan Eovaldi carries a no-hit bid into the 7th as the Yankees take down the Rangers in Arlington, 3-1. pic.twitter.com/quXKtMaKML
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) April 26, 2016
Partnering Eovaldi’s age and contractual status (free agent in 2018), the Yankees are not inclined to trade him. However, the team has struggled for most of the year as their 24-26 record shows. The team is currently 6.5 games back of the first-place Boston Red Sox (31-20) in the American League East.
While there’s still a lot of baseball to be played, the Yankees could conceivably become sellers at the trade deadline if their struggles continue. If that happens and Eovaldi continues his solid string of outings, he could bring back the most assets in a trade.
“People have expressed interest in the past on those two people,” GM Brian Cashman said to Joel Sherman of the Post about possibly trading Eovaldi and/or Pineda. “But at this stage, that is not our focus, our focus is contention.”
However, Cashman also said an extension with either pitcher is also currently not being discussed.
The Cubs, owners of MLB’s best record (35-14) and owners of first place in the National League Central, are certainly not starving for dominant starters. Jake Arrieta (9-0, 1.72 ERA), Jon Lester (5-3, 2.48 ERA), John Lackey (5-2, 3.16 ERA), and Jason Hammel (6-1, 2.09 ERA) spearhead the Cubs’ rotation. However, after those four names, the team lacks rotation depth.
Cubs have now won 23 straight regular-season games started by Jake Arrieta, tying longest streak in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/id9OKQYKJ1
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 25, 2016
Kyle Hendricks is the Cubs’ fifth starter, but both he and Hammel faded down the stretch last year. Former Yankee Adam Warren, who the Cubs acquired in exchange for Starlin Castro in the offseason, is the sixth starter. Aside from him, there is not much depth.
If the Cubs were to acquire Eovaldi, they’d have a talented, young pitcher for not just 2016 but the following season as well. Given Eovaldi’s tremendous upside, it’s certain that the Cubs would not be the only interested team should the Yankees make him available in trades.
[Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images]