It’s no secret that Tampa Bay believes in young (and cheap) starting pitching, but Bill Chastain of MLB.com notes just how strong that belief is: Tonight the Rays will set an MLB record by starting a pitcher under 30 years old for the 704th consecutive game.
That streak dates back to May 24 of 2007, when crazily enough Jae Seo started on his 30th birthday. Before that the last over-29 pitcher to start for the Rays was a then-32-year-old Mark Hendrickson way back on June 25 of 2006.
Also of note: During the 703-game streak the Rays have used a total of only 14 different starting pitchers, which is the lowest number in MLB, and none of the 14 (led by tonight’s pitcher, James Shields, with a team-high 142 starts) were signed as free agents.
During the streak of exclusively using twenty-something starters the Rays are 377-326 for a .536 winning percentage that equates to an 87-75 record per 162 games. Shields, incidentally, turns 30 in December.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.