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Did the Yankees win the first year of the Nathan Eovaldi trade?

Nathan Eovaldi started to put it all together during the second half of 2015, but did the Yankees give up too much to acquire him?

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we went over how the Yankees' trade for Didi Gregorius looked after one season. Now, let's do the same with the acquisition of Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi, along with Garrett Jones and Domingo German, was acquired from the Marlins in December 2014 for David Phelps and Martin Prado. After looking at the Gregorius deal, it seems clear that New York has, at least so far, won the exchange. The winner of the Eovaldi deal, however, is far less apparent.

It's, of course, easy to make a case that the Yankees would have been ok had they not made this trade. After being acquired at the trade deadline in 2014, Prado performed excellently in New York, to the tune of a .316/.336/.541 slash line. While he did not quite achieve those heights in 2015, he still posted a 102 OPS+ with the versatility to handle multiple positions, profiling as a solid three-win player. Phelps was the lesser part of the deal, as he ran a 4.50 ERA and 4.03 FIP in 112 innings in 2015.

Eovaldi, as we know, was inconsistent in 2015 but flashed considerable potential at times. His mediocre run prevention belied promising underlying signs, such as his 3.42 FIP. However, the runs he allowed last year still count, no matter what his defense independent numbers say, and thus was worth only 2.2 WAR by baseball reference. Jones, on the other hand, was awful for the Yankees, managing only a .215/.257/.361 line, accompanied by bad defense, before being released in August. German, a 23-year-old right-hander, underwent Tommy John surgery and last pitched in Single-A in 2014.

Looking at the deal as a whole, the Yankees probably would have been better in 2015 had they not made the trade. Per Fangraphs, New York's second basemen ranked 29th in the majors in overall value at -1.1 WAR, placing ahead of only the White Sox. The dearly departed Stephen Drew and his 76 wRC+ surely had much to do with that, as did replacement-level production from players like Gregorio Petit and Jose Pirela. Plugging Prado into the nightmare that was the Yankees' second base situation would have, on paper, made the team easily a few wins better. Not having Eovaldi would certainly have hurt the Yankees' rotation, but the 154 innings he provided would likely have been swallowed by players, such as Phelps or Adam Warren, that were at least major league caliber.

The salaries for the players involved in the deal complicate matters further. Eovaldi's $3.3 million salary was quite palatable, but paying $5 million to Jones for sub-replacement level production was not, nor was eating $3 million of Prado's salary. In all, when taking into account the awful play of Jones, New York doled out over $11 million for between one and two WAR. The Marlins, on the hook for $8 million of Prado's salary plus the $1.4 million owed to Phelps, received over 3 WAR combined from the two players. Twice the production, at a cheaper price. From this perspective, the Marlins, through one year, seem to have come out with the better side of the swap.

Yet it would be foolish to declare Miami the victors after just one year. Given the injury of German, the release of Jones, and the mediocrity of Phelps, the trade will likely be evaluated mostly as Eovaldi for Prado going forward. Eovaldi looked tremendous down the stretch last season, and while that is no guarantee of continued success in 2016, it is reasonable to expect the 26-year-old pitcher to continue to improve at this point in his career. Conversely, Prado is entering his age-32 season, and will soon be entering a decline phase. With the Yankees again paying $3 million of Prado's salary this year, their salaries are essentially a wash in 2016. Their production may also be quite even in 2016, with Steamer projecting both for about 2.0 WAR next year.

Thus, whether the Yankees will look back on this deal as a victory may simply come down to Eovaldi's performance beyond 2016. Prado is a free agent after this year, while Eovaldi is under team control for two more years. If Eovaldi continues to evolve as a pitcher, utilizing pitches like his splitter in order to offset his hittable fastball, his future contributions to the Yankees may be more than enough to call this trade a success. His second-half statistics prorated across a full season equate to a 3.67 ERA and 3.10 FIP in 212 innings with an opposing slash line of .242/.317/.312. Eovaldi's career-high innings count is 199, so expecting such production from him is definitely a tad aggressive. Still, if his performance over the next two years even somewhat resembles his 2015 second-half surge, the Yankees will be thrilled.

It's too early to definitively determine who has won the Eovaldi deal. The Marlins must be pleased with their lot thus far, but in Eovaldi, the Yankees possess potential that Miami simply cannot match in the form of Prado or Phelps. If forced to pick a side, I would take the Yankees end of the deal given the upside Eovaldi brings over both 2016 and 2017, but it is certainly debatable. What do you think?