The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Corey Kluber, as was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, comes with a club option for 2024 as well.
According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Kluber will earn $10 million in 2023. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that the option is worth $11 million and the deal includes additional incentive bonuses.
Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Kluber’s 2023 salary can increase to $10.5 million if he makes 20 starts, $11.25 million if he makes 25 starts, and $12 million if he makes 30 or more starts next season. The value of his option for 2024, which does not come with a buyout, increases to $11.5 million if he makes 20 starts, $12.25 million if he makes 25 starts, and $13 million if he makes 30 starts.
“The contract then stipulates that those bonuses carry over to 2024 if the option is exercised,” Cotillo wrote on Wednesday. “Kluber would be due the same bonuses based on games started in 2024 (maxing out at $2 million).”
All told, Kluber’s deal with the Red Sox can max out at $27 million over two years ($12 million in 2023 and $15 million in 2024) if he makes 30-plus starts in 2023, has his option picked up, and then makes 30 or more starts again in 2024.
Kluber, who turns 37 in April, spent the 2022 season with the Rays after signing a one-year, $8 million pact with the club last December. In 31 starts for Tampa Bay, the veteran righty posted a 4.34 ERA — but much more respectable 3.57 FIP — with 139 strikeouts to 21 walks over 164 innings of work.
The Red Sox have been interested in signing Kluber in each of the last two offseasons but were ultimately unable to secure his services. Prior to his one season with the Rays, Kluber spent the 2021 campaign with the Yankees. This time around, however, Boston was able to land one of its top targets one day after fellow starters Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill agreed to deals with the Rangers and Pirates, respectively.
Kluber, who lives in Winchester, Mass. (where his wife, Amanda, is from) during the winter, is now slated to join a starting rotation mix in Boston that already consists of Brayan Bello, Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, and possibly even Tanner Houck heading into the 2023 season. While the Red Sox were unable to bring back Eovaldi, they were previously interested in a reunion with Michael Wacha, though the addition of Kluber may have altered those plans.
A former fourth-round draft pick of the Padres coming out of Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.) in 2007, Kluber was traded to the Guardians in 2010 and first broke in with Cleveland the following September. As part of a nine-year tenure with that franchise, Kluber made three All-Star teams and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2014 and 2017.
The Guardians traded Kluber to the Rangers in Dec. 2019. He was limited to just one start with Texas during the COVID-shortened 2020 season due to a tear in his right teres muscle. Kluber left the Rangers for the Yankees last January and has since forged a 4.17 ERA (3.66 FIP) over 47 starts (244 innings) in his short stays in the Bronx and St. Petersburg.
For his big-league career, which spans 12 seasons and four teams (Cleveland, Texas, New York, and Tampa Bay), Kluber owns a lifetime 3.31 ERA and 3.09 FIP to go along with 1,683 strikeouts to 347 walks across 256 appearances (251 starts) spanning 1,586 2/3 innings pitched. He has also produced a 4.02 ERA in 47 career postseason innings.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Kluber operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a mid-80s cutter, a low-80s curveball, a high-80s sinker, a low-80s changeup, and a high-80s four-seam fastball. This past season, he ranked in the 99th percentile of the league in walk rate (3.1 percent) and the 96th percentile in chase rate (35.7 percent), per Baseball Savant.
Kluber becomes the sixth major-league free agent the Red Sox have signed so far this winter, joining the likes of relievers Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, and Joely Rodriguez, outfielder Masataka Yoshida, and infielder/designated hitter Justin Turner. As noted by Cotillo, Kluber, Jansen, Martin, and Turner are all 35 years of age or older.
As things stand now, Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity. The signings of Kluber and Turner have yet to be made official, so chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will need to clear at least two spots before those announcements can be made.
(Picture of Corey Kluber: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)