Baltimore’s surprising closer has been overshadowed by Tampa Bay’s surprising closer, but Jim Johnson notched his 51st save Tuesday in the 1-0 win over the Rays.
That moves Johnson into a tie for ninth place on the all-time single-season saves list with Dennis Eckersley (1992) and Rod Beck (1998). He’s the first closer to save 50 games since the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez broke the major league record with 62 in 2008.
Of course, Johnson does things a bit differently than most closers. He has just 41 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings this season. The 11 other pitchers with 50-save seasons had strikeout totals ranging from 66 (Mariano Rivera, 2004) to 137 (Eric Gagne, 2003).
With 51 saves and 41 strikeouts, Johnson will be the 13th pitcher ever to finish with 30 saves and at least as many saves as strikeouts. Todd Jones did it in back-to-back years in 2006-07 (and had 18 saves and 14 strikeouts in 2008). Danny Kolb is the only closer to have a more extreme split than Johnson here; he had 39 saves and 21 strikeouts for the Brewers in 2004.
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.