The Red Sox have shown interest in free-agent pitcher Corey Kluber
Starting pitching is a clear position of need for the Boston Red Sox. While they probably aren’t going to break the bank by committing most of their available budget to the top option on the market, how about a pitcher with ace-caliber upside who might be available for a fraction of the price? According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Red Sox are showing interest in free-agent starter Corey Kluber.
The three-time All-Star clearly has tremendous upside. From 2014-2018, Kluber went 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9 and 10.0 K/9. He won a pair of Cy Young awards during that span and finished third on the ballot on two other occasions.
There’s also considerable downside for a pitcher who turns 35 in April and has logged only 36 2/3 innings over the last two years. Kluber fractured his right forearm when he was drilled by a line drive in May of 2019 and strained his oblique while trying to work his way back on a rehab assignment, limiting him to only seven starts.
The Cleveland Indians traded Kluber to the Texas Rangers but he would last only one inning for his new club before landing on the injured list with a Grade 2 tear of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder.
There’s not much to take away from Kluber’s limited 2020 data and the previous year provides an unreliable sample. 2019 was the worst year of his career with a 5.80 ERA and 1.654 WHIP. However, his 4.06 FIP suggests he wasn’t nearly that bad. Kluber still stuck out over a batter per inning and maintained a 12.3 swinging strike percentage that is nearly identical to his career rate.
According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Kluber has been cleared for a normal offseason. He may be past his peak but as long as he’s healthy, a bounce-back year could be in store for the right-hander.
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Texas declined the $18 million club option for Kluber, setting him free to test the market where he’ll almost certainly be available for significantly less. MLB Trade Rumors projects Kluber to sign a one-year deal to prove himself at an affordable rate of $12 million.
The price tag might be a bit steep for some teams considering the uncertainty surrounding Kluber and the number of mid-tier starters on the market who could be signed for less. It’s a gamble that could pay off for a team willing to roll the dice though.
It doesn’t hurt that Kluber makes his offseason home in Winchester. If he plans on signing a short-term deal, it’s conceivable that Kluber would be drawn to a team close to home so that he doesn’t need to move his family during a pandemic.
Kluber can’t be counted on for the 200+ innings he logged annually during his peak. Building rotation depth around him will be vital in order to keep his workload in check. If the Red Sox gamble on Kluber, they should consider hedging their bets by adding a safer mid-tier starter to bolster their rotation. They’ll need an extra starter until Chris Sale is ready to return and they can’t assume everyone else will stay healthy all season.
Signing Kluber would be risky but striking gold with a pitcher who has elite upside on a discounted deal due to that risk is just what they need to vault themselves back into contention. With high expectations from a demanding fanbase and few options on the market who offer this much upside, what do they have to lose?