Red Sox: 5 free agent pitchers who can replace Eduardo Rodriguez
Red Sox could add a Hall of Fame pitcher
Justin Verlander is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward pitcher in this free agent market. The last time we saw Verlander on the mound for a full season was when he won his second career Cy Young award by going 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and league-leading 7.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Unfortunately, that was in 2019. Verlander only made one start during the shortened 2020 season and underwent Tommy John surgery in October of that year. He’ll be about 17 months removed from surgery when spring training rolls around so he should be able to begin a relatively normal routine to prepare for the season on time. It’s a different situation than the one Chris Sale faced when he was only a year removed from his surgery in the spring and didn’t debut until August. The Red Sox were overly cautious with Sale but even if they followed the same path with Verlander, the former MVP would still be available for most of the season.
Verlander held a showcase for interested suitors last week that reportedly went very well. His fastball velocity was in the mid- to upper-90s and he appeared sharp with all of his pitches.
There’s obvious concern for any pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery, let alone one who will be 39 years old next season. If you’re going to place that bet on any pitcher, make it a future Hall of Famer who was still pitching at an elite level deep into his 30s.
The other drawback to signing Verlander is that he received a qualifying offer from the Astros. Even if Boston is willing to pay the penalty, surrendering a draft pick to sign a player to a one-year deal is a horrible waste of an asset. The Angels were willing to do so when they signed Noah Syndergaard but following in the footsteps of the Angels is rarely a wise team building strategy. That should take the one-year “prove it” deal off the table for the Red Sox. Considering his age, how many years does Verlander have left in the tank? How many effective years would it take to make a lucrative multi-year contract worth surrendering the draft pick?
A healthy Verlander is arguably the best pitcher available in this market. He won’t be cheap and there’s plenty of downside but if the right-hander can return to form, he’s capable of being the difference-maker the Red Sox need to put them over the top.