Red Sox Activate Eovaldi; Story Likely Done For Season

The Red Sox announced Thursday that righty Nathan Eovaldi has been reinstated from the 15-day injured list. Right-hander Connor Seabold has been optioned to Triple-A Worcester in his place. Additionally, it now appears unlikely that Trevor Story will return to the Sox in 2022. Story, currently shelved with a heel injury, had been hoping to return for the final series of the season but has fallen ill (on top of that injury) and is now “very unlikely” to get back to the active roster in 2022, Chris Cotillo of tweets.

Eovaldi’s return is an important one not necessarily for the Red Sox, who’ve long since been eliminated from postseason contention, but for the pitcher himself. The 32-year-old Eovaldi is wrapping up the final season of a four-year, $68MM contract and is slated to become a free agent at season’s end. He’s been out more than a month due to a shoulder injury, so returning today gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his health over two more starts before the end of the year. That’ll also give the Sox a bit more information as they weigh a potential qualifying offer for Eovaldi.

It’s been something of an up-and-down year for Eovaldi, who was terrific through mid-June before landing on the injured list due to a back injury. That issue also cost Eovaldi a month, and he briefly experienced a velocity dip and poor results upon his activation. He got back on track for three starts, beginning Aug. 1, but then hit the shelf with this most recent shoulder ailment.

Even with the slight dip in performance in July, Eovaldi’s overall numbers are sound. He’s logged a 4.15 ERA with a 22.7% strikeout rate and an outstanding 4.3% walk rate in 99 2/3 innings this season — a continuation of the strong results he enjoyed with Boston from 2020-21. Dating back to Opening Day 2020, Eovaldi carries a collective 3.87 ERA in 330 1/3 frames. He’s fanned nearly one quarter of his opponents in that time and his 4.3% walk rate trails only Clayton Kershaw for the MLB lead in that span (min. 200 innings pitched).

A healthy Eovaldi is an easy call to receive a qualifying offer, so it’ll be worth keeping a close eye on his performance over the next two outings. Cotillo noted that he’ll be capped around 65 pitches today, so it’s unlikely he’ll go deep into the game, but there will still be plenty to be gleaned from even a four- or five-inning outing. It also stands to reason that Eovaldi could push a bit further in what would be his final start of the season next week.

As for Story, this latest injury and illness will apparently close the book on what was a discouraging first season in Boston. Signed over the winter to a six-year, $140MM contract, Story stumbled out of the gates, and while he had a pair of torrid hot streaks (from mid-May into early June and from August into September), those were surrounded by prolonged cold spells at the plate. In the end, his 2022 campaign will end with a .238/.304/.434 slash, 16 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 396 plate appearances.

Defensively Story posted impressive marks in Defensive Runs Saved (six) and Outs Above Average (ten) despite appearing in only 813 innings on the field. The move to second base suited him quite well, but his future position remains to be determined. Xander Bogaerts will opt out of his contract at season’s end and reject a qualifying offer, but the Sox will surely have interest in re-signing him. If Bogaerts heads elsewhere, Story is certainly capable of sliding back over to shortstop — a position at which he starred in Colorado for the first six seasons of his career. Alternatively, the Sox could seek shortstop alternatives and keep Story at second base, where he’s played Gold Glove-caliber defense in 2022.

Story is still owed $120MM over the next five years, although his contract allows him to opt out after the 2025 season. The team can negate that opt-out by instead preemptively exercising a $25MM club option on the 2028 season for Story, which would push his total contract to seven years and $160MM.

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