Justin Verlander To Red Sox? Why Boston Should Consider Star Pitcher

Verlander could be the ace the Red Sox need

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December 2, 2022

Will the Red Sox make waves this offseason? Boston has financial flexibility and a strong desire to bounce back from a disappointing 2022. As such, we’ll examine whether several notable free agents make sense (or don’t make sense) as the club looks to retool for 2023 and beyond.

Justin Verlander took a bet on himself when he signed a one-year deal with the Houston Astros last offseason. That sure paid off for him.

But would taking a gamble on the aging right-hander be a good bet for the Boston Red Sox?

Verlander proved to still be an elite pitcher this past season even after missing the entire 2021 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John surgery — he also only made one start in 2020. Verlander walked away with his third Cy Young Award by putting together a sensational season, in which he led Major League Baseball with a 1.75 ERA, which was also the lowest mark of his 17-year career.

Verlander will want to cash in one time and he’ll surely be looking for a sizable deal given the success he had on the mound in 2022. He is one of the headliners of the free agent class and the Red Sox have plenty of pitching needs.

Let’s take a look and see if it makes sense for the Red Sox to make a massive splash by pulling the trigger on the nine-time All-Star.

Info
Position: Starting pitcher
Age: 39 (Feb. 20, 1983)
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 235 pounds
Throws: Right

2022 stats (with Houston Astros)
28 appearances (all starts), 175 innings
18-4 record, 1.75 ERA, 185 strikeouts
0.829 WHIP, 2.49 FIP, 220 ERA+
9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 6.38 K/BB

Career stats (17 seasons)
482 appearances (all starts), 3,163 innings
244-133 record, 3.24 ERA, 3,198 strikeouts
1.117 WHIP, 3.36 FIP, 132 ERA+
9.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.63 K/BB

Why Verlander makes sense for Red Sox
Boston needs to tighten up their pitching staff with a bona fide ace at the top of the rotation. Verlander could step in and do just that. He’s been the lead man for nearly every season of his big league career, whether it was early on with the Detroit Tigers or during his time with the Astros.

The results Verlander produced last season aren’t an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination. In his last two seasons in which he has been completely healthy, Verlander has won the Cy Young. In 2019, he went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA while striking out 300 batters in 223 innings pitched. He showed this past season he’s not the same power pitcher he was back then, but still highly effective. He struck out 185 batters in 175 innings but only allowed 116 hits, the fewest the tall righty has surrendered over the course of a full campaign of work.

The Red Sox really don’t have a pitcher like Verlander on their roster and their starting rotation is littered with question marks. Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill are free agents as is Michael Wacha, who was arguably Boston’s best hurler last season. The Red Sox right now will have to rely on oft-injured lefties Chris Sale and James Paxton while hoping Brayan Bello can make a leap in his potential first full season in the bigs. Boston is trying to sure up the rotation by making Garrett Whitlock a full-time starter, but he hasn’t had the same type of success in that role as he has had coming out of the bullpen.

There are just many question marks surrounding the Red Sox’s starting pitchers, but most of them would disappear if Verlander was at the head of the rotation.

Why Verlander doesn’t make sense for Red Sox
There’s really no doubting Verlander’s talent even after enduring a major injury. But Verlander’s age, the number of miles he has put on his arm and the type of contract he will demand could take the Red Sox out of the running for his services.

Verlander will turn 40 in February and has already pitched over 3,000 innings in his career, including more than 200 strenuous frames in the postseason. That’s a lot already on Verlander, and while he has stayed fairly healthy during his time in the big leagues — making over 30 starts 13 times — his body could break down at any moment.

It also doesn’t help matters that Verlander reportedly is in search of a Max Scherzer-type contract that will pay him around $40 million annually with a player option. That’s a very steep price to pay given Verlander’s closer to the end of his career than in the prime of it. He most likely will still produce at a high level, but there are so many other factors to consider than just how he performs on the mound when handing out that kind of dough.

Verdict: A terrific talent that probably has a strong season or two left in him, just not in Boston.

Prediction: Verlander re-signs with the Astros.

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