Having lost veteran pitchers Nathan Eovaldi (Rangers) and Rich Hill (Pirates) to free agency, the Red Sox gained a two-time Cy Young Award winner in Corey Kluber, whom they officially signed on Thursday to a one-year deal that includes a club option for 2024. Terms were not disclosed, but a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand the deal is worth $10 million and the option is for $11 million.
Right-hander Connor Seabold was designated for assignment to make room for Kluber on Boston's 40-man roster.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and manager Alex Cora both stated at the Winter Meetings earlier this month that acquiring more starting pitching was a priority.
But as the team filled holes via free agency in the bullpen (Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin and Joely Rodríguez) and the lineup (Masataka Yoshida and Justin Turner), things were slow going on the rotation front until the agreement with Kluber, which was first reported in late December.
After signing a one-year, $8 million deal with the Rays last offseason, Kluber tossed 164 innings over 31 starts and finished 2022 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.
The veteran had thrown just 116 2/3 innings in the previous three seasons combined due to several major injuries, including a fractured right forearm in 2019, a torn teres major muscle in his right shoulder in 2020 and a right shoulder strain in 2021.
For many offseasons, Kluber had been rumored as a candidate to come to the Red Sox given that his family maintains a home in Winchester, Mass., a suburb located roughly 10 miles north of Boston.
Kluber joins a rotation that includes two other accomplished pitchers who have been saddled with injuries in recent years: Chris Sale and James Paxton.
Sale and Paxton are both expected to be healthy for the start of Spring Training. The question is how many innings they can realistically be expected to pitch given how infrequently they’ve taken the mound the past three seasons.
Boston’s rotation, as presently constituted, looks something like this: Sale, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, Kluber, Tanner Houck and Paxton.
That is six pitchers for five spots, giving the team a chance to inventory the health of the rotation in Spring Training. Brayan Bello, the prospect who showed flashes of brilliance after his callup last season, will also vie for a spot.
There’s a chance Houck will move to the bullpen if the rest of the rotation looks to be healthy and effective enough. Though Whitlock has been brilliant as a reliever in his first two MLB seasons, the Red Sox are committed to seeing what he can bring as a starter on a full-time basis.
Kluber was one of the top pitchers in the game with Cleveland from 2014-18, winning two American League Cy Young Awards and recording a 2.85 ERA with 1,228 K’s over 1,091 1/3 innings.
He pitched for the Rangers in 2020 (1 IP) and the Yankees in 2021 (80 IP) before joining Tampa Bay, his fourth team in as many years.
The addition of Kluber doesn’t necessarily preclude the Sox from adding another starter. Michael Wacha, who did an excellent job for Boston last season (11-2, 3.32 ERA) is still a free agent.
The Red Sox are also seeking another middle-infield bat to replace Xander Bogaerts. An upgrade at catcher would also make sense.
Thomas Harrigan contributed to this story.