3:55pm: The deal can max out at $27MM over the two years, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive. In 2023, Kluber will get an extra $500K for starting 20 games, then $750K for getting to 25 and 30 starts. Those same figures will also be added to the value of the $11MM option, meaning it will escalate up to $11.5MM at 20 starts, $12.25MM at 25 and $13MM at 30. If the option is picked up, those same bonuses would be available to Kluber for 2024.
12:50pm: The Red Sox and right-hander Corey Kluber are in agreement on a one-year deal plus a club option for 2024. Kluber will be guaranteed $10MM on the deal, though there’s also $2MM in unknown incentives that could increase the eventual payday for the Wasserman client. The 2024 option is valued at $11MM, though with escalators and incentives for that season as well.
Kluber, 37 in April, was once one of the best 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 posting 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 over 2019 and 2020, with a forearm fracture and teres muscle tear the primary culprits. He’s since been ramping back up, but as more of a back-end hurler instead of the ace he was with Cleveland, signing one-year deals with the Yankees and Rays for 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 did still avoid the free passes, something he’s long excelled at, with his 3% walk rate this year coming in a few ticks below his career 5.4% mark.
Statcast pegged Kluber’s average four-seam fastball velocity at 88.9 mph in 2022, a significant drop from prior to the injuries, when he was in the 93-95 range. Nonetheless, he still found ways to generally be effective, as his average exit velocity was in the 80th percentile, his hard hit rate in the 75th and his barrel rate 57th. Given his age and checkered health history, MLBTR predicted him for a one-year, $12MM deal, with Kluber coming in just under that, though the incentives could potentially make up the difference.
For the Sox, adding another starting pitcher makes a lot of sense given the uncertainty with their current options. Nick Pivetta is probably the only solid member of their group right now, as Chris Sale and James Paxton have hardly pitched in the past three years. Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock are penciled into two spots, though they are young and only have 20 MLB starts between them. Kluber is a bit of a question mark himself, but adding him into the picture still reduces the likelihood that the club will have to rely upon depth options like Connor Seabold or Josh Winckowski throughout the year.
Boston had also been connected to various other starters throughout the offseason, including Zach Eflin, Carlos Rodón, 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 the Rangers yesterday. Chad Jennings of the Athletic reports that the Red Sox offered Eovaldi a three-year deal earlier this month, though the guarantee on that offer isn’t known. Regardless, it seems that Eovaldi spurned it in favor of the offer from Texas and Boston then pivoted to Kluber.
Kluber had previously been connected to the Angels and Cubs, though the latter’s interest was prior to signing Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly. If the Angels are still looking for rotation upgrades, some of the remaining free agents include Michael Wacha, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke.
This deal brings the Red Sox payroll up to $186MM and their competitive balance tax figure to $212MM, per the calculations of Roster Resource. That should leave them room for further additions if they so choose, as they’ve run a payroll as high as $236MM in the past, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and they’re still more than $20MM shy of the $233MM luxury tax threshold.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported that Kluber and the Red Sox were in agreement on a one-year deal plus a club option. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe first reported the $10MM guarantee and later provided some details on the incentives. Jon Heyman of The New York Post first reported the $11MM figure for the option and that the deal contained incentives.
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