Red Sox Rumors: Free-agent hunt for pitching focused on short-term deals
The Red Sox aren’t planning any long-term deals for free-agents
The Boston Red Sox have cast a wide net in the search for upgrades to their starting rotation but we’re beginning to get a bit of clarity on the type of deals they are willing to make.
According to a report from Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox are “uninterested in exploring deals” of four years of more. Boston is focused on discussing two- or three-year deals with free-agent pitchers.
Trevor Bauer is the only starting pitcher remaining on the market projected to earn a contract longer than four years by MLB Trade Rumors. That’s assuming that Bauer doesn’t follow through on his claim that he intends to sign one-year deals for the remainder of his career. One-year deals aren’t part of Boston’s plan so Bauer would seem to be off their radar either way.
There are several aging veterans and reclamation projects coming off of injury-plagued seasons who might need to settle for one-year deals in this down economy. James Paxton, Cole Hamels, Rick Porcello, Jon Lester and J.A. Happ are among those predicted to sign a prove-it deal before testing the market again next year. This report suggests that those options aren’t on Boston’s list unless they are confident they have enough left in the tank to warrant a multi-year deal at a price that would entice them to lock themselves in rather than wait to see if market conditions improve in 2022.
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An unwillingness to go beyond three years explains why the Red Sox balked at signing Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract that includes three opt-outs to remain with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball. While fans will be frustrated that the Red Sox fell short in their pursuit of yet another free-agent they showed interest in, it’s hard to be bitter about missing out on a player that no other major league team felt was worth the contract Sugano was seeking to pry him away from Japan.
That still leaves several appealing options that would fit within Boston’s budget and the shorter duration they are willing to offer. Jake Odorizzi has been rumored as a top target and the deal he is reportedly seeking falls comfortably in the range the Red Sox are looking for. Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintana, Taijuan Walker, and Garrett Richards are among the other mid-tier available starting pitchers who should be able to secure multi-year deals but aren’t in a position to demand more than three in this market.
The wild card is Corey Kluber, who is scheduled for a throwing session in front of interested suitors this month. If he were coming off his brilliant 2018 campaign, Kluber would challenge Bauer for the largest contract in this free-agent class. In the wake of two injury-ravaged seasons, the 34-year old won’t be getting more than three years. If his showcase goes well, Kluber could leap to the top of Boston’s wish list. If any red flags are raised then interest will dwindle. Some team will still gamble on his upside with a one-year deal in that scenario but it probably won’t be the Red Sox.
This free-agent market has been excruciatingly slow but with so many remaining options who fit the bill of what they are looking for, it’s only a matter of time before the Red Sox strike.