There will be others suggested for the Red Sox in this space. (Don’t worry, there are more Jon Lester posts to come.)
But with Wednesday’s news it makes sense to surface one name in particular: Corey Kluber.
Word came down that the two-time Cy Young Award winner would not be having his $18 million option picked up by the Rangers for 2021. It was far from shocking news considering the uncertainty that has come with Kluber over the past two seasons, which have included eight total starts.
In 2019 it was a freak fractured forearm, which led to an oblique issue during his rehab process. Last season the 34-year-old suffered a Grade 2 tear of the teres muscle in his right shoulder, limiting him to just one start for a Texas club that acquired him for outfielder Delino Deshields Jr. and pitcher Emmanuel Clase.
But through it all, this might be a right-guy-at-the-right-time situation for the Red Sox.
For starters, Kluber is local, which never hurts. The Texas native spends his offseasons in Massachusetts, where his wife is originally from.
Most importantly, however, it’s a good bet that Kluber has plenty left in the tank.
According to a source familiar with the pitcher’s situation, the former Indians ace is slated to have a normal offseason and be ready to go for spring training.
This is a guy who just two seasons ago won 20 games while posting a 2.89 ERA in 33 starters. The year before it was 18 wins with an American League-best 2.25 ERA, good enough for his second Cy Young. And on top of the performance, there is the persona.
The market is a mystery, with contracts for players like Kluber tough to gauge. Perhaps his semi-recent excellence will lead to a multi-year deal. But there certainly is a plausible case to be made that it wouldn’t be the worse idea in the world to re-establish his reputation at a still manageable age while waiting for baseball’s economics to bounce back.
As for the Red Sox, it remains to be seen how much they will prioritize having a veteran anchor on a somewhat uncertain starting staff. Chris Sale isn’t likely to re-emerge until May or June, and to expect him to hit the ground running after Tommy John surgery isn’t realistic. Most are optimistic about Eduardo Rodriguez’s return, but myocarditis is still somewhat of a mystery for active athletes. Nathan Eovaldi ended 2020 with optimism but still didn’t shake his uncertainty. And while the prospects of integrating Tanner Houck and/or Nick Pivetta are intriguing, this isn’t exactly rounding out the rotation with certainty.
For the right price, a guy like Kluber makes a ton of sense for all parties involved. Just something to think about as we brace ourself for the most unpredictable Major League Baseball season of all-time.