Corey Kluber’s free agency is fascinating.
On one hand, he’s totaled just 36 2/3 innings across eight starts over the past two seasons due to injuries. He’ll turn 35 in April.
On the other, he’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner who notched a career-high 20 victories in 2018, his most recent full season.
Whichever team signs Kluber might be getting a bargain, provided he stays healthy and recaptures even a portion of his past dominance. Or it might be lighting money on fire, with ailments, age and rust all posing potential pain points for the veteran hurler.
The Red Sox are among the teams who’ve been linked to Kluber, who, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, is expected to throw a bullpen session for interested clubs in January. Boston, of course, needs pitching, especially in the rotation, after a disastrous 2020 campaign.
But how exactly do the Red Sox view Kluber’s situation?
While he’d be an intriguing upside acquisition, Boston this past season experienced a possible drawback that comes with signing a pitcher fresh off an injury. Collin McHugh never appeared in a game after landing with the Red Sox in March, as his elbow didn’t respond favorably to an offseason procedure.
Obviously, each situation is unique. And the Red Sox shouldn’t be gun-shy with Kluber, or anyone else, simply because the McHugh move didn’t pan out. But this speaks to the trickiness of evaluating players seeking to overcome recent health woes, as there’s a wide range of potential outcomes.
“Obviously, with any player who is working their way back from injury, the medical evaluation plays a huge role and how you forecast that going,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters Monday during a video conference, speaking in general terms. “And then so many other factors: Obviously, the timing of the market, the desires of the player, what other decisions you might have to make at that time.
“So, it’s hard to answer in the abstract, but I think this falls under the heading of the way that I’ve talked about a lot of the other decisions we have to make this offseason: We need to be active, we need to be fully informed, we need to make sure we have as much information as possible and then just try to make the best decision from there, looking at every decision in the context of the larger market.”
Bloom might not have been talking about Kluber, specifically, although the question was in clear reference to the former Cleveland Indians ace. Still, his response is notable in trying to decipher whether the Red Sox really are interested in Kluber, as has been reported, and whether they’ll make an aggressive push to add the right-hander to their rotation.
The Red Sox almost certainly will acquire starting pitching depth, even with Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez expected to rejoin the staff in 2021. And they might need to be creative and aggressive in order to maximize their potential returns, making Kluber a compelling target.