The Boston Red Sox are sending Garrett Richard into free agency
The Boston Red Sox were on a deadline regarding the club option for Garrett Richards and they took the decision down to the wire despite that we all knew what was coming. MassLive’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Red Sox have declined the $10.5 million option for the right-handed pitcher, making him a free agent. They will owe him a $1.5 million buyout.
Declining the option was an easy choice considering Richards had a disappointing season in Boston, going 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 7.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 40 appearances (22 starts).
Richards showed flashes of being a viable back of the rotation starter until MLB began cracking down on pitchers utilizing foreign substances. Richards was forced to reinvent himself when he found he couldn’t get the proper grip to harness the control of his secondary pitches without the aid of the sticky stuff he had been reliant on for his excellent spin rate.
Boston banished Richards to the bullpen in August and he managed to carve out a meaningful role for himself. Without the need to pace himself during shorter stints as a reliever, Richards was able to unleash his fastball while leaning on a limited arsenal by scrapping the pitches he could no longer get a feel for.
Richards surprisingly turned out to be a fairly trustworthy reliever, posting a 3.42 ERA and 9.6 K/9 while picking up three rouge saves down the stretch.
The Red Sox could use a productive arm like that in their bullpen but the cost of his option year was far too high for the role they envision him in. It’s possible that the Red Sox could look to re-sign him at a lower salary, similar to what they did last year when they declined the option for Martin Perez only to bring him back at a reduced rate. Richards will presumably seek suitors willing to give him another shot in the rotation but if he doesn’t find the offers he’s looking for, settling for a relief role with a contending Red Sox team isn’t the worst outcome.
For what it’s worth, Richards tweeted after the season ended that this year was the best he’s ever had on and off the field. He must have known that the Red Sox weren’t going to pick up his option so this might hint that he’s still open to returning anyway.
Along with the news that the team option for Perez has also been declined, the Red Sox have cleared nearly $15 million from next year’s payroll after accounting for buyouts. That gives them some financial flexibility as they aim to fortify their pitching staff for the 2022 season.