The Red Sox may have declined Garrett Richards’ club option for the 2022 season on Sunday, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has yet to rule out a potential reunion with the right-hander.
Richards, who originally signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Sox in February, had a $10 million team option for 2022 attached to that deal that the Sox needed to decide on by 5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday.
Boston ultimately chose against picking up Richards’ option, thus making the 33-year-old hurler a free agent who will be receiving $1.5 million in the form of a buyout.
Still, when speaking with reporters via a Zoom call on Sunday evening, Bloom spoke highly of Richards’ 2021 season when others might view it as a rather disappointing one.
“It’s funny,” Bloom said. “When I talked to Garrett to let him know, I made sure to compliment him and credit him by telling him how I feel, which is that he really turned around his season and, in many ways, saved ours with what he did once he got comfortable in the bullpen.”
Coming out of spring training, Richards opened the year as Boston’s No. 3 starter. After a rough 2021 debut against the Orioles on April 4, he proceeded to post a 3.14 ERA and 3.90 FIP to go along with 56 strikeouts to 30 walks over his next 11 starts and 63 innings of work from April 10 through June 6.
Beginning in mid-June, however, Major League Baseball began to crack down on pitchers using foreign substances in order to enhance their grip on baseballs. Richards wound up getting caught up in this crackdown, and it negatively affected his performance on the mound.
From June 11 until August 8, Richards struggled to the tune of a 7.15 ERA and 6.94 FIP with 29 strikeouts and 16 walks over his next 10 starts (45 1/3 innings pitched) before being removed from Boston’s starting rotation and relegated to the bullpen on Aug. 11.
As a reliever, Richards fared far in shorter burst, much to the delight of Bloom. The veteran righty put up a 3.42 ERA and 2.90 FIP while striking out nearly 25% of the batters he faced in 18 appearances and 26 1/3 innings out of the Red Sox bullpen.
“For a season in which he really struggled in a lot of ways, I think he also found a lot of success,” said Bloom. “Even before the switch to the bullpen, there was a period in the early start of the season where he was really rolling and really was a stabilizer for us. So, there were a lot of good things mixed in.”
In the postseason, Richards made Boston’s Wild Card Game roster and American League Division Series roster. He pitched a third of an inning in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Rays before suffering a left hamstring strain that forced the Red Sox to remove him from their roster and replace him with Matt Barnes.
Taking all those factors into consideration, the Sox, as Bloom explained on Sunday, felt as though it was not worth it for them to bring Richards back for the 2022 on what would essentially be a one-year, $10 million deal.
“We get to the end point with this decision, and we didn’t feel like it made sense to exercise the option,” Bloom said. “But, we’re going to stay in touch with him and it’s certainly possible that something could line up.”
Bloom, of course, is someone who likes to keep all doors open when it comes to constructing a big-league roster. And while it may be unclear at the moment if Richards — who turns 34 in May — is best suited to market himself as a starter or reliever, the Red Sox reuniting with the ISE Baseball client remains a possibility for now.
(Picture of Garrett Richards: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)