Red Sox sign Corey Kluber to one-year deal

Red Sox and right handed Corey Kluber agree to a one-year deal plus a club option for 2024. Clubs will be guaranteed $10MM on the deal, but there’s also $2MM in undisclosed incentives that could boost the eventual payday for the Wasserman client. The 2024 option is valued at $11MM, but with escalators and incentives for that season as well.

Kluber, 37 in April, was once one of the greatest pitchers alive, winning Cy Young awards in both 2014 and 2017. Those were part of a six-year run of excellence with Cleveland from 2013 to 2018, with Kluber having a 2.96 ERA over that time along with a 27.7% strikeout rate, 5.2% walk rate and 44.9% ground ball rate.

Injuries limited him to just eight total starts during 2019 and 2020, with a broken forearm and teres muscle being the main culprits. He has since moved up again, but as more of a back-end hurler rather than the ace, he was with Cleveland, signing one-year deals with the Yankees and Rays the past two seasons. He made 16 starts in 2021 with a 3.83 ERA and 31 starts in 2022 with a 4.34 ERA. His 34.7% strikeout rate in 2017 was down to 24% last year and 20.2% in 2022. He still avoided the free passes, something he has long excelled at, with his 3% walk rate this year coming in a few notches below his career high his 5.4% mark.

Statcast pegged Kluber’s average four-seam fastball velocity at 88.9 mph in 2022, a significant drop from before the injuries, when he was in the 93-95 range. Nonetheless, he found ways to generally be effective, as his average exit velocity was in the 80th percentile, his hard hit rate at 75th, and his barrel velocity at 57th. Given his age and checkered health history, MLBTR projected him for a one-year, $12 million deal .dollars, with Kluber coming in just below that, though the incentives could potentially make up the difference.

For the Sox, adding a new starting pitcher makes a lot of sense given the uncertainty of their current options. Nick Pivetta is probably the only solid member of their group right now, who Chris Sale and James Paxton has barely turned up in the last three years. Brian Bello and Garrett Whitlock are slotted into two spots, even though they are young and have just 20 MLB starts between them. Kluber is a bit of a question mark himself, but bringing him into the picture still reduces the likelihood that the club will have to rely on depth options such as Connor Seabold or Josh Winckowski through the year.

Boston had also been linked to various other starters throughout the offseason, including Zach Eflin, Carlos Rodon, Kodai Senga, Andrew Heaney, Seth Lugo, Tyler Anderson, Rich Hill and Nathan Eovaldi. Those players have all since found new clubs, with Eovaldi signing a two-year deal with Rangers yesterday. Chad Jennings of the Athletic reports that the Red Sox offered Eovaldi a three-year deal earlier this month, though the guarantee of that offer is not known. Regardless, it appears Eovaldi turned it down in favor of the offer from Texas and Boston, and then moved on to Kluber.

Kulber had previously been linked to the Angels and Cubs, although the latter’s interest predated the signing Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly. If the Angels are still looking for rotation upgrades, include some of the remaining free agents Michael Wacha, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke.

This deal brings the Red Sox payroll up to $186MM and their competitive balance sheet to $212MM, according to Roster Resource calculations. That should leave them room for additional additions if they choose, as they’ve run a payroll as high as $236MM in the past, per the Cots’ baseball contracts, and are still more than $20MM away from the $233MM luxury tax threshold.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that Kluber and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal plus a club option. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe first reported the $10MM guarantee and later made sure of some details on incentives. Jon Heyman of The New York Post first reported the $11MM figure for the option and that the deal contained incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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