Red Sox ‘uninterested’ in exploring four-year deals for free-agent pitchers this winter, prefer ‘shorter-term deals of up to to two or three years in length’

Before coveted Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano returned to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization on Thursday, it appeared as though the Red Sox had at least some interest in signing the 31-year-old hurler before his posting period ended.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the Sox had some interest in Sugano – who possesses excellent command of a four-pitch mix anchored by a low-90s fastball along with a slider and splitter – but his asking price exceeded the team’s level of interest.”

This is mainly the case because Sugano was reportedly seeking out a contract of four years or more from interested clubs, which apparently goes against Boston’s philosophy when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers this offseason.

In other words, the Red Sox “have been uninterested in exploring deals of that length for pitchers” and “have been focused on shorter-term deals of up to two or three years in length this winter,” per Speier.

Free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi would seemingly fit that mold after The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the 30-year-old “expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range” at some point this winter.

Aside from Odorizzi, who is familiar with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from their time together in Tampa Bay, Speier notes that while top free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer likely won’t garner interest from the Red Sox on account of his hefty price tag, the club is still very much in need of starting pitching help following a dismal 2020 campaign from its shorthanded rotation.

With that in mind, Boston may look into signing other veterans still on the market such as Corey Kluber or Rich Hill, both of whom reside in Massachusetts during the offseason.

Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, is expected to hold a workout — one in which the Red Sox will attend — for interested teams in Florida on January 13.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Chaim Bloom on pursuing international free agents posted from Japan, South Korea: ‘That’s a market we need to involve ourselves in just like any other’

While exploring options to improve their roster this offseason, the Red Sox have looked towards the international market for potential additions.

So far, the Sox have been in on the likes of Japanese right-hander Kohei Arihara and Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim, both of whom recently signed with other clubs in the Rangers and Padres.

That being said, Boston, by all accounts, is still in pursuit of another free-agent hurler out of Japan in Tomoyuki Sugano, a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award) who was posted by the NPB’s Yomiuri Giants earlier this month.

Appearing on WEEI earlier Wednesday afternoon, Red Sox chief baseball officer addressed his club’s interest in the 31-year-old righty.

“I think it’s more difficult in a sense than it is with a pitcher who has pitched a lot domestically, where you just have more information,” Bloom said when asked about evaluating an international talent such as Sugano. “But, that doesn’t necessarily mean a pitcher from that market is an unwise investment. I think… there’s a lot more unknowns when you’re bringing someone over to compete in a different league, on a different schedule than they’re used to competing. But, baseball’s baseball. We have a number of examples, including in this organization, of guys coming from that market and having success. I think we have, as an industry, a decent ability to predict how they’ll do. So, that’s a market I think we need to involve ourselves in just like any other.”

Going back to Arihara and Kim, Bloom emphasized that while recruiting the pair of international sensations was important, there were other factors out of the team’s control to consider as well.

“I think with some of these other guys, [recruiting] is still part of what you do,” he said. “You want to put your best foot forward. You want to engage with the player to the extent that you can through the process and get to know them. I think there’s a little less of that now, obviously because it can’t happen in person, but it’s still something you do with those guys.

“But, I think to different degrees with different players, the money is obviously going to be a huge factor,” Bloom added. “And I don’t blame the players for that. Obviously, they want to make sure they’re comfortable with there they go — and that is a factor in some cases — but you also never know how many chances you’re going to have to set yourself up financially. And they’re right to care about that as well.”

Neither Arihara, who at 28 signed a two-year, $6.2 million deal with Texas, nor Kim, who at 25 reportedly signed a four-year, $25 million deal with San Diego, received too large of a payday. As previously alluded to, that would make it seem as though both players had other priorities in mind when deciding which major-league club to sign with.

“I think in different situations, you will sometimes see — especially when the money amount is smaller — there are other factors that come into play more,” stated the Sox’ CBO. “Players will sometimes pick teams, pick from similar offers based on certain other factors that are important to them. Whenever we’re involved in that type of situation, we want to put our best foot forward and make sure that we can show a player how we can appeal to them. But, people are different and everybody’s got different things that they like and value. Money’s part of that and sometimes there are other factors that are part of that.

“I think historically, there’s a certain type of player that draws to Boston, and there’s certain types of players that would rather play elsewhere,” Bloom said. “This place is not for everybody, and you want to make sure that the players we’re bringing here in those circumstances are guys that are going to thrive playing here and really want to be here.”

So, if Sugano is indeed someone who Bloom and Co. believe fits the above criteria and really wants to play in Boston, the Red Sox have until 5 p.m. eastern time on January 7 to sign him.

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel predicted earlier this month that a two-year, $24 million deal could be enough for a team to land the veteran right-hander’s services. We will have to wait and see on that, but January 7 is approaching rather quickly.

Red Sox expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, per report

The Red Sox are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, according to Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam.

Sugano, 31, has been posted by the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, effective Tuesday morning at 8 am eastern time, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

The veteran hurler is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he posted a 1.97 ERA and recorded 131 strikeouts over 20 outings and 137 1/3 innings of work for Yomiuri.

In his eight-year professional career, Sugano has taken home two Sawamura Awards — the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award — in 2017 and 2018 as well as the Central League MVP Award in 2014.

A six-time All-Star in Japan, Sugano is projected to be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter stateside as he becomes one of the better starting pitchers available on the free agent market.

As you may already be aware, the Red Sox are a team in need of starting pitching this offseason. General manager Brian O’Halloran said as much when addressing reporters via Zoom earlier Monday.

“There are certainly a number of starting pitching options out there of various stripes, and also, of course, there’s a trade market,” said O’Halloran. “Several of those pitchers have signed but there are plenty of opportunities to delve into that market further, either via free agency or trade. Starting pitching and pitching in general is an area we’d like to improve and add depth to. We continue to work on that.”

Sugano would certainly fit that need given his accomplished career in Japan. But, as McAdam notes, “the Red Sox won’t be alone in their bidding” for him.

More specifically, per McAdam, “While multiple industry sources confirm the Red Sox have extensive scouting reports on the righthander and intend to be aggressive in their pursuit, other teams — including many big market teams, have similar levels of interest.”

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel predicted over the weekend that a two-year, $24 million deal could be enough for a team to land Sugano’s services as a result of the revenue losses Major League Baseball and its clubs suffered in 2020.

Of course, any club interested in pursuing Sugano, such as the Red Sox, will beginning on Tuesday have until January 7 at 5 pm eastern time to negotiate a contract with the 6-foot-1, 183 lb. hurler.

Should be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.