St. Louis Cardinals: Comparing Miles Mikolas and Nathan Eovaldi

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 07: Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals cheers for himself after hitting for a single in the third inning against the at Marlins Park on August 7, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 07: Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals cheers for himself after hitting for a single in the third inning against the at Marlins Park on August 7, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals locked up Miles Mikolas to an extension after a great year. This deal was very similar to another players’, how do they compare?

On February 26th, the St. Louis Cardinals announced a late afternoon press conference that had no headline reason yet. For some time, rumors swirled about what the press conference could be until it finally came out. Miles Mikolas was signing an extension for four years worth $68M.

Let me first say that this deal could backfire tremendously. Miles Mikolas was the Cardinals’ best pitcher last year, he will start on Opening Day this year, and will likely be about as close to an ace as the team will have this year. All that said, last year he signed a two-year, $15.5M deal for a reason. He hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues for very long at all and this big of an extension after just one year can be dangerous.

I love Mikolas, and hope to convince you to love this deal, but recognizing how badly it could backfire is important too.

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Before digging into Mikolas, I have to give a shout out to one of our contributors, Dan Campbell, for guessing this deal within $2M dollars and the same years. While credit is due to that projection, I feel there is a reason that Dan guessed that length and dollar amount. That reason? Nathan Eovaldi.

Nathan Eovaldi was a huge part of the Red Sox starting staff and bullpen in their 2018 run to win the World Series. Last year, Eovaldi was worth a 1.5 WAR by pitching for a 3.81 ERA, a stellar 1.126 WHIP, over 21 starts last year pitching for both the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays in the regular season. Eovaldi shined in the postseason, but as a 28-year-old free agent, he has had two Tommy John surgeries and has been pitching in the majors since 2011.

That’s a lot of miles on an arm as well as injury history. Not that Eovaldi was bad in 2018, but those numbers don’t particularly jump off the page. Eovaldi resigned with the Red Sox this offseason for the exact same deal that Mikolas received.

For comparison, let’s take a look at Mikolas’ 2018. For starters, Mikolas blows Eovaldi out of the water in WAR (4.3), ERA (2.83) while starting 32 games throwing over 200 innings. Mikolas is a better pitcher than Eovaldi.

There is plenty of risk in Mikolas though as someone who could be due for a regression in 2019 as we talked about earlier, but overall he was much more valuable in 2018 than Eovaldi was. The other thing that makes Mikolas more attractive is that he hasn’t had as much wear and tear on his arm over the past eight years like Eovaldi does.

While Mikolas pitched some in the Major Leagues from 2012-2014 and pitched in Japan, those innings on the arm bode better for Mikolas than the years and Tommy John surgeries that Eovaldi’s arm has suffered. For this reason I don’t take too much weight into the fact that Mikolas is 30 versus Eovaldi’s 28.

In short, the St. Louis Cardinals paid the same amount that the Red Sox did for a guy who performed worse than Miles Mikolas in 2018. The four years attached to this deal could throw people away from liking this deal, but as an anchor for the staff, as a great clubhouse guy, Mikolas is well worth the risk and the money in my opinion.

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Mikolas could blow out his shoulder on opening day and be hurt for the rest of the four-year deal he signed. Nobody knows. The main point here is that the Cardinals paid less than the Red Sox did for a better pitcher. If Mikolas is anywhere near what he was last year, he would have been due a higher AAV deal heading into free agency. The Cardinals were smart to lock him up and take the risk.

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