Is Tanner Houck’s future with the Red Sox as a starter or reliever?

Earlier this month, Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter identified Tanner Houck as a potential breakout candidate for 2022, citing that the Red Sox right-hander has “proven he has the stuff to miss bats at the MLB level” and it is now “just a matter of doing it over a full season” in Boston’s starting rotation.

After a stellar — albeit brief — three-start debut in 2020, Houck embarked upon his first full big-league season earlier this year. The 25-year-old made the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation out of spring training and made his impact felt immediately by striking out eight while allowing just three runs (two earned) on six hits and one walk over five innings of work against the Orioles on April 3.

Houck was used out of the bullpen in a game against the Rays two days later and was then optioned to the Red Sox’ alternate training site. He was recalled from the alternate site to serve as the 27th man and start Game 1 of a doubleheader against the White Sox on April 18, but that would mark his last major-league outing for quite some time.

Upon getting sent back down to the alternate site, Houck was lined up to start the first game of the minor-league season for Triple-A Worcester against the Buffalo Bisons on May 4. He did just that, but wound up suffering a sore flexor muscle in his right arm that resulted in him getting shut down.

It took a little more than a month for Houck to return to the mound, and he ultimately found his way back to the Red Sox’ pitching staff on July 16. From that point forward, the 6-foot-5, 230 pound righty was used as a starter 11 times and as a reliever four times across five separate stints with Boston to close out the regular season.

All told, Houck posted a 2.58 ERA and 3.52 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 21 walks over 18 appearances (13 starts) and 69 innings pitched in 2021. He also put up a 5.23 ERA (5.30 FIP) in 10 1/3 innings of relief in the postseason.

Houck’s first full season in the majors may have been a productive one, but it was also one that left us with some lingering questions. For starters, can Houck make it in the big-leagues as a starting pitcher?

This has been a prevalent topic since the Red Sox selected Houck with the 24th overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri, and it is one that remains relevant today.

In the 13 starts Houck made for Boston this past season, he averaged less than five full innings per start and only made it to the sixth inning on two occasions. The primary reason Houck was held back in his starts had to do with his struggles when facing the same lineup multiple times.

When going through a lineup for the first time as a starter in 2021, Houck pitched to the tune of an impressive 1.50 ERA and 2.04 ERA across 30 innings. When going through a lineup for a second time as a starter, he still produced a respectable 3.81 ERA and 2.09 FIP across 26 innings.

Once Houck faced the same lineup a third time through is where things started to get dicey, though. In a small sample size of 2 2/3 innings pitched, the young hurler got lit up for nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. That’s good for an ERA of 27.00 as well as a FIP of 9.01 and OPS against of 1.489.

What led to the difficulties Houck encountered when going through a lineup multiple times? Well, the answer to that question may lay within Houck’s pitch usage.

Since debuting for Boston last September, Houck has very clearly favored his fastball and slider, but has also been working to incorporate a splitter as a third pitch that he first began throwing last year.

This past season alone, the Missouri native threw 443 four-seam fastballs, 426 sliders, 195 sinking fastballs, and 85 split-finger fastballs, per Baseball Savant. Of those offerings, Houck’s slider was undoubtedly his best pitch as he held opposing hitters to an expected batting average of .144 while producing a 42.4% whiff rate with it.

As far as the splitter is concerned, Houck relied on the pitch in 2021 (7.4%) more than he did in 2020 (3%) and yielded positive results with it by allowing just one hit in 19 attempts while inducing a swing-and-miss 36.8% of the time.

“It’s a pitch that I feel confident in, and I’ve grown very much with it, so I’m excited to see where it takes me in the future,” Houck said of his splitter when speaking with FanGraphs’ David Laurila back in September. “I’ve had success with it as of late, throwing it off my slider, my two-seam, and my four-seam. I’m continuing to develop it, so I imagine that the usage will go up over time.”

Despite the success Houck enjoyed with his splitter and other pitches this year, the question remains as to whether he can stick with the Red Sox as a rotation regular or is rather best suited for a bullpen role.

During last month’s GM meetings, Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was — as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote — noncommittal to Houck or fellow righty Garrett Whitlock as members of the team’s 2022 starting rotation.

“I would say possibilities,” Bloom said when asked about Houck and Whitlock starting in 2022. “I have said this before, I think the ceiling (is for them) to be really good major-league starters. There are steps on the way to establishing themselves as that. I think it’s great that they have that upside. They’ve done it. They’ve came up as starters. … It gives us options and flexibility heading into the winter. So we’ll see how it all shakes out. We certainly want to have more depth either way. I have no doubt that if that ends up being their role, they would be very capable. It just might not be the best alignment for our team.”

Since that time, the Red Sox have obviously been busy in free agency when it comes to stockpiling rotation depth. In the wake of Eduardo Rodriguez departing for the Tigers, Bloom and his staff have added veteran pitchers with starting experience such as Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton leading up to Major League Baseball’s lockout taking effect in early December.

Once the lockout eventually ends and MLB’s transaction freeze is lifted, the Sox figure to be active in free agency and the trade market for starting pitchers yet again.

“I think the big thing for us is that we do know we want a number of capable arms, but it didn’t necessarily have to fall the way that it did,” Bloom recently said in regards to the additions of Wacha, Hill, and Paxton. “We love the guys we got, but we were in touch with the whole market. I think the key for us is to use our resources as best we can. We want to make sure we’re making what, in our mind, are good deals. Those can be small deals or they can be big deals.”

If the Red Sox were to sign another free-agent starter such as Carlos Rodon or deal for a controllable arm like Frankie Montas, that would only push Houck further down the club’s rotation depth chart.

Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Hill should be penciled in to be Alex Cora’s top four starters next spring. After that, it gets a bit murky since Paxton is coming off Tommy John surgery and Wacha may wind up in the bullpen.

With that, Houck will presumably have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Sox’ 2022 Opening Day starting rotation once spring training arrives in a few months. Whether he comes out on top in that competition has yet to be determined.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox among several teams ‘rumored to be interested in signing’ free-agent left-hander Carlos Rodón, per report

The Red Sox are among several teams rumored to be interested in signing free-agent left-hander Carlos Rodon, according to the Daily Herald’s Scot Gregor.

Per Gregor, the Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, and Mariners all have interest in Rodon, who spent the first seven years of his major-league career with the White Sox.

After getting non-tendered at the conclusion of the compressed 2020 campaign, Rodon re-upped with the South Siders on a one-year, $3 million contract for 2021 and made the most out of that pact.

Across 24 starts this past season, the 29-year-old posted a career-best 2.37 ERA and 2.65 FIP to go along with 185 strikeouts to 36 walks over 132 2/3 innings of work.

Despite being named to his first All-Star team and finishing sixth in American League Cy Young voting this year, Rodon did deal with his fair share of injury troubles.

Coming out of the All-Star break in July, the veteran southpaw was limited to just nine starts spanning 43 innings through the end of the regular season. He spent a little more than two weeks on the injured list in August due to left shoulder soreness and fatigue and was used just once in the American League Division Series against the Astros in October.

Perhaps taking the time he missed into consideration, the White Sox did not extend Rodon a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer, meaning any interested team would not have to forfeit a draft pick if they were to sign the lefty in free agency.

That being said, the level of interest the Red Sox — or any other team, for that matter — have in Rodon is unclear on account of Major League Baseball’s lockout, which prevents clubs from speaking with free agents.

A former first-round pick of Chicago coming out of North Carolina State University in the 2014 draft, Rodon operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, a nasty slider, a changeup, and a curveball.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound hurler is represented by the Boras Corporation and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a one-year, $25 million deal in free agency once MLB’s transaction freeze is lifted.

Since the off-season began, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have been very involved in the starting pitching marker. In the wake of losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers, Boston has added veteran starters such as Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton.

Rodon, who just turned 29 on Friday, is younger than all three, but comes with his own concerns given his injury history that is highlighted by the fact that he did not receive a qualifying offer.

Still, the Red Sox have seemingly made it a point of emphasis to leave no stone unturned when it comes to improving their pitching staff. Rodon would be the youngest of the four starting pitchers Boston has acquired via free agency and has the most upside of the bunch.

There is risk involved, yes, but Rodon could prove to be a difference maker if healthy. It’s that simple.

(Picture of Carlos Rodon: Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

Red Sox make signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official

Moments before shocking the baseball world by acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe, the Red Sox made the signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official on Wednesday night.

Both veteran left-handers had agreed to one-year deals with the Sox within the last 24 hours, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier first reported the agreement with Hill and Sportsnet’s Chad Day first reported the agreement with Paxton.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Hill will earn a base salary of $5 million in 2022, though his deal includes up to $3 million in performance bonuses based on number of innings pitched.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, is coming off a solid 2021 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) spanning 158 2/3 innings of work between the Rays and Mets.

The Milton, Mass. native will be preparing to embark upon his 18th big-league season in 2022 after signing with Boston as a free agent for the seventh time in his career.

“This guy is one of the best competitors in our game,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Hill. “It seems like he doesn’t age. Wherever he goes, it seems like he has success. Not only is he a good pitcher, but he’s a tremendous clubhouse presence. To be able to add a veteran like him who has shown the ability to pitch here and shown the ability to pitch in different roles, really to take on whatever is thrown at him.”

Paxton, on the other hand, is more of a unique signing since the Red Sox added the lefty on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2022 that also includes a two-year club option that could take the total value of the contract up to $35 million, per Speier.

More specifically, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that if the Sox pick up Paxton’s option, he will be guaranteed $26 million in 2023 and 2024 ($13 million in each season). If they decline, he can either exercise a one-year player option for 2023 at $4 million or turn it down and become a free agent himself.

In other words, Paxton’s contract comes with $10 million in guaranteed money (a $6 million base salary in 2022 and the $4 million conditional player option) that can max out at $35 million over three years when taking performance bonuses and escalators into account.

After spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Yankees, Paxton re-joined the Mariners in 2021. But he suffered an elbow injury in his first start of the year that would ultimately require season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.

Because Paxton is still recovering from that elbow procedure, the Red Sox do not anticipate that the 33-year-old to return to the mound until some point during the second half of the 2022 campaign.

“He’s not going to be ready for Opening Day, but we do expect to see him at some point during the second half of the season if all goes well, ” said Bloom. “We’re hopeful that when he does come back, he’ll be able to give us a lift. Before injuries really started to impact his career, this guy was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League.”

Going back to his first season with New York, Paxton put up a respectable 3.82 ERA and 3.86 ERA with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks across 29 starts and 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2019.

“If he gets back to that, he could provide a huge boost for us in the second half,” Bloom said of Paxton. “We also have the ability, if all goes well this coming year, to control him for a couple years after that. And that was a big part of this deal for us: adding someone who might be able to help us down the stretch this coming year, but then also be a big part of what we’re doing in the years ahead.”

Within the last week, the Red Sox have added three starting pitchers (Hill, Paxton, and Michael Wacha). While the goal of doing this may have something to do with filling the void left by Eduardo Rodriguez, it also allows Boston to bolster its rotation depth going into 2022.

“To add to this group that we have, to have the depth to make sure we’re not putting too much on our young guys, and that we have enough capable major-league pitchers to get through the marathon of a season, it’s huge,” Bloom said.

Indeed it is.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year deal with veteran left-hander Rich Hill, per report

The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year contract with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is still pending a physical, but figures to increase the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, has been linked to the Red Sox for quite some time as this will mark the seventh instance in which he has signed with Boston as a free agent.

The Milton, Mass. native was originally drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 amateur draft out of the University of Michigan, but has spent parts of four major-league seasons (2010-2012, 2015) with the Sox.

After garnering interest from the Red Sox last winter, Hill ultimately inked a one-year, $2.5 million pact with the Rays in February and was later traded to the Mets in July.

Over 32 appearances (31 starts) between both clubs, the veteran southpaw posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks across 158 2/3 innings of work in 2021.

The 158 2/3 frames Hill threw this year marked the most he has accrued in a single season since 2007 (195 innings pitched), when he was an up-and-coming 27-year-old with the Cubs.

Per Baseball Savant, the 41-year-old lefty operates with a six-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, curveball, sinker, cutter, changeup, and slider. He held opponents to a .111 batting average against with his sinker, a .167 batting average against with his changeup, and a .176 batting average against with his cutter this year.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds, Hill — who is represented by ACES — will be embarking upon his 18th big-league season come Opening Day 2022.

By reportedly agreeing to a deal with Hill just hours before Major League Baseball’s impending work stoppage, the Red Sox have shown that adding starting rotation depth has been a priority so far this off-season.

In the wake of losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers via free agency, Boston has gone out and signed right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal and veteran left-hander James Paxton to a one-year, $10 million deal that is pending a physical and includes a two-year club option within the last four days.

Like Wacha and Paxton, Hill is somewhat of a lottery ticket given his age and injury history. Still, Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. must have felt that the potential rewards outweighed the risks, as Hill is once again slated so suit up for his hometown team.

A product of Milton High School, Hill was used as a reliever in his first stint with the Red Sox from 2010-2012, pitching to the tune of a 1.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36:15 over 40 total relief appearances spanning 31 2/3 innings pitched.

In his second stint with the club, Hill came aboard by signing a one-year deal out of Indy Ball in August 2015. He then proceeded to put up a 1.55 ERA and 2.27 FIP in four starts (29 innings pitched) and leveraged that impressive stretch into a major-league deal with the Athletics. Since then, he has pitched for the A’s, Dodgers, Twins, Rays, and Mets.

Of all the teams Hill has pitched for throughout his lengthy career, though, he credits the Red Sox for being one of the best at doing what they do.

“The Red Sox do things right,” Hill told Speier last month. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year, $10 million deal with left-hander James Paxton, per report; contract includes two-year club option

The Red Sox are in agreement with free agent left-hander James Paxton on a one-year, $10 million contract for the 2022 season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, includes a two-year club option and was first reported by Sportsnet 650’s Chad Dey.

Per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the total value of Paxton’s contract could reach $35 million if the Red Sox were to pick up his two-year option for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

Paxton, 33, underwent Tommy John surgery this past April after making just one start for the Mariners in which he allowed one earned run in 1 1/3 innings against the White Sox at T-Mobile Park.

The Canadian-born southpaw was originally selected by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky and later made his major-league debut for the Mariners in September 2013.

After spending the first six years of his big-league career with the M’s, however, Paxton was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for three players at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.

While donning the pinstripes, Paxton enjoyed a solid inaugural season with the Yankees in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work.

The following year was a different story, though, as Paxton managed to make just six starts for New York before his season prematurely came to a close in late August due to a left flexor strain.

Despite signing a one-year deal to return to Seattle in February, the same discomfort Paxton experienced in his left elbow in 2020 clearly carried over into 2021 since it ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Having undergone the elbow reconstruction procedure on April 14, Paxton likely won’t be able to return to in-game action until the later stages of the 2022 season at the earliest

Still, perhaps following a similar timeline they used with Chris Sale this year, the Sox elected to take a chance on Paxton. The veteran lefty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Paxton — a native of British Columbia — is represented by the Boras Corporation and does not turn 34 until next November.

He also becomes the second significant starting pitching-related addition Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made via free agency in the last week. Over the weekend, the club announced that they had signed veteran right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal for 2022.

Once he passes his physical and his signing is made official, Paxton will bring the size of Boston’s 40-man roster up to 38 players.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox officially sign Michael Wacha to one-year deal; veteran right-hander will earn $7 million in 2022

The Red Sox have officially signed free agent right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year contract for the 2022 season, the club announced earlier Saturday morning.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Friday that the two sides were finalizing a contract that was pending a physical, which Wacha has since passed.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the one-year deal is worth $7 million in value and does not include any options or incentives. The $7 million Wacha will earn in 2022 represents a significant raise from the $3 million he received with the Mets in 2020 and Rays in 2021.

This past season with Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old posted an unspectacular 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

While Wacha may have struggled at times this year, he did put up a respectable 3.91 xFIP and career-best chase rate of 32.6%, which ranked in the 92nd percentile among major-league pitchers according to Baseball Savant.

From August 28 through the end of the regular season, Wacha appeared in seven games and made a total of six starts for the Rays. In that stretch, he pitched to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 3.29 FIP while limiting opponents to a .167/.217/.300 slash line against and striking out 27.9% of the batters he faced.

For most of the 2021 campaign, Wacha had relied on his cutter as one of his most frequently-used pitches. But it got hit hard, so he ditched it later on the year in favor of throwing more four-seam fastballs (his primary pitch) and changeups as well as slightly more curveballs and sinkers.

Via Baseball Savant

A former first-round draft selection of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha spent the first seven years of his big-league career in St. Louis. The 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty was named MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2013 and earned his first and only All-Star selection to date in 2015.

After making more than 150 starts in a Cardinals uniform, Wacha inked a one-year pact with the Mets and spent the compressed 2020 season in Queens before joining the Rays on another one-year deal.

With the Red Sox, Wacha, who turns 31 next July, is now on his third team in three seasons. As of now, the veteran hurler is slated to join a starting rotation in Boston that includes the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock in the mix as well.

That being said, Speier reports that when the offseason began, the Red Sox “intended to add starting pitching depth, and will continue to explore ways of doing so by both trade and free agency.”

Wacha does, however, have experience working out of the bullpen, and so the Sox could elect to have him undertake a multi-inning reliever role if they feel that is where he would best be used to start things out in 2022.

On another note, Wacha — who is represented by CAA Sports — will wear the No. 52 with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign right-hander Michael Wacha to one-year deal

UPDATE: It’s a straight one-year, $7 million deal with no incentives, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is also now official.

The Red Sox are in the process of finalizing a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Michael Wacha, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is still pending a physical.

Wacha, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Rays, posting a 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

Boston was known to be in the market for starting pitching help after Eduardo Rodriguez left to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers earlier this month. And Wacha, as Passan points out, is expected to provide the Sox with experienced rotation depth.

While his ERA this year was north of five, Wacha did put up a much more respectable 3.91 xFIP and 4.00 SIERA during his time with Tampa Bay, and he did so while producing a career-best chase rate of 32.6%.

A former first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha established himself as one of the better starters in the National League in his tenure with St. Louis, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors in 2013 and an All-Star nod in 2015.

Since leaving the Cardinals at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, the 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty will now be joining his third team in three years after spending 2020 with the Mets and 2021 with the Rays.

Per Baseball Savant, Wacha operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball, and sinker. His changeup may just be his best pitch, as opponents only batted .207 off it this season.

A client of CAA Sports, Wacha does not turn 31 until next July and figures to compete for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation by the time the Red Sox report to spring training in February.

That said, Wacha does have some experience as a reliever as well, so it would not be a surprise if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. view the veteran hurler as someone who could start and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Are Red Sox open to reunion with Rich Hill?

The Red Sox appear open to a reunion with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In a recent conversation with Speier, Hill “suggested that he’s been in touch with members of the Red Sox this offseason, just as he was as a free agent last offseason.”

While noting that these conversations have mainly been social exchanges, Hill did hint that the Sox do seem interested in his services.

“There is an interest, without a doubt,” Hill said. “There’s a need on the other end. [But] the need for starting pitching is very apparent throughout the league — not just in Boston. It’s also many other clubs that need it.”

Hill, 41, became a free agent earlier this month after splitting the 2021 season with the Rays and Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP with 150 strikeouts and 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 158 2/3 innings pitched between both clubs.

As noted by Speier, this marked Hill’s healthiest season since he was a member of the Cubs in 2007, which had been the last time he eclipsed the 150-inning plateau prior to this year.

A native of Milton, Mass., Hill has spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Red Sox, with his most-recent stint with the team coming in 2015. To date, he has signed with Boston as a free agent on six separate occasions (June 2010, December 2010, December 2011, February 2014, March 2014, August 2015).

By Opening Day next spring, Hill will have turned 42 years old. Still, the veteran lefty expects to pitch in the majors in 2022 and wants to do so for a contender.

But Hill, who still lives in Milton, also expressed interest in living closer to home, making it seem as though the Red Sox would be at the top of his destination wish list for that very reason.

“The Red Sox do things right,” said Hill. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

Along those same lines, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting rotation help this winter after Eduardo Rodriguez left in free agency to ink a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

Hill, who is preparing to embark upon his 18th major-league season, would not command the sort of pay day other free agent starters — such as Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, or Kevin Gausman — are seeking.

Last winter, the Sox were in talks to bring Hill back for the 2021 campaign, though those conversations dissipated once chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. brought in Martin Perez and Garrett Richards by early February.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Michigan product signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays, thus closing the door on any shot of a reunion with his hometown team.

This time around, however, a reunion could take place if the Red Sox believe Hill can contribute as a starter in 2022 and Hill, in turn, feels like the Red Sox give him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox among several teams interested in free agent right-hander Marcus Stroman, per report

The Red Sox are one of several teams interested in free agent right-hander Marcus Stroman, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes.

Per Dierkes, the Sox join the Angels, Cubs, Giants, and Mets as clubs who have expressed interest in Stroman. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi adds that the Mariners are viewed as a potential suitor as well.

Stroman, 30, is one of the top arms remaining on an open market that has seen several intriguing starters — such as Justin Verlander, Anthony DeSclafani, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Matz — come off the board in recent weeks.

After getting traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets in July 2019 and opting out of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stroman enjoyed a great deal of success in his first full campaign in his home state of New York in 2021.

In 33 starts for the Mets, the Duke University product posted a 3.02 ERA and 3.49 FIP to go along with 158 strikeouts to 44 walks over 179 innings of work.

Among qualified starters this year, Stroman ranked ninth in ERA, 17th in FIP, 13th in xFIP (3.57), and 23rd in fWAR (3.4), per FanGraphs. His pitch arsenal consists of a sinker, slider, splitter, cutter, four-seam fastball and curveball and he is known for his ability to induce ground balls.

At the conclusion of the 2020 season, Stroman was extended a one-year qualifying offer by the Mets and he accepted it, thus prolonging his free agency to this offseason.

Since he was already extended a qualifying offer once, Stroman does not have any sort of draft pick compensation attached to him this winter, meaning any interested club could sign the righty without having to forfeit a draft selection.

Combine this with the kind of year he is coming off of, and it’s easy to see why someone such as Stroman is an appealing target to teams in need of starting pitching like the Red Sox are.

After watching Rodriguez leave to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers and Matz choose to sign a four-year pact with the Cardinals within the last two weeks, Boston remains locked in on upgrading its starting rotation going into 2022.

“We don’t have anything teed up that I would say is close but we’re very active in conversations with a few different guys,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said on Monday. “We’ve touched base with a wide variety of players. Just about everybody who is on the market and it’s gotten more serious and more involved with some of them.

“I don’t know right now if that’s going to lead to anything or when,” he added. “I think by the time the offseason is over, we will have added pitching of various sorts, including starting pitching. I think that’s something that’s a clear goal of ours. But who that’s going to be or when, I don’t know yet.”

Stroman, who turns 31 next May, would likely not come cheap. MLB Trade Rumors projects that the 5-foot-7, 180 pound hurler will land a five-year, $110 million contract in free agency.

Also of note here is that Stroman does have some history with Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Going back to the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Cora — Team Puerto Rico’s general manager — attempted to recruit Stroman (whose mother is of Puerto Rican descent) to join his team. Stroman instead chose to play for Team USA and was later named the tournament’s most valuable player.

(Picture of Marcus Stroman: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘made competitive offer’ to Steven Matz before lefty reached agreement with Cardinals, per report

The Red Sox have lost out on Steven Matz, as the free agent left-hander has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Cardinals that includes an additional $4 million in potential incentives, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

While Boston may have come up short in the bidding war for Matz, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Sox were “involved in the sweepstakes for the lefty until the bitter end” and “made a competitive offer” before he ultimately chose the Cardinals.

After a down 2020 season with the Mets, Matz was dealt to the Blue Jays in January and flourished in his first year with Toronto. In 29 starts for the Jays, the 30-year-old southpaw posted a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP to go along with 144 strikeouts to 43 walks over 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2021.

Because of the strong season he had, as well as the fact that he was not extended a qualifying offer, Matz drew plenty of interest on the open market. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, Mets, and Tigers — in addition to the Cardinals and Red Sox — all made offers to Matz.

With Matz ultimately landing in St. Louis, though, Boston will have to look elsewhere when it comes to filling the void in their starting rotation left behind by Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million deal with Detroit last week.

When speaking with reporters (including Cotillo) earlier this week, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom discussed just how involved the club has been in free agency as notable starters such as Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray remain unsigned.

“We don’t have anything teed up that I would say is close but we’re very active in conversations with a few different guys,” Bloom said. “We’ve touched base with a wide variety of players. Just about everybody who is on the market and it’s gotten more serious and more involved with some of them.

“I don’t know right now if that’s going to lead to anything or when,” he added. “I think by the time the offseason is over, we will have added pitching of various sorts, including starting pitching. I think that’s something that’s a clear goal of ours. But who that’s going to be or when, I don’t know yet.”

It is also worth mentioning that the Sox may be more aggressive when it comes to pursuing free agents or potential trade targets in the coming days since the collective bargaining agreement expires next Wednesday and will likely trigger a work stoppage.

(Picture of Steven Matz: Mark Blinch/Getty Images)