Chaim Bloom needs to find another Charlie Morton; here are six possibilities for Red Sox
Tomase: Six Pitching Options for Bloom, Red Sox were originally released on NBC Sports Boston
Back when the Hot Stove season only became a perfect metaphor for the Ice Age game pace of baseball in February, the Red Sox routinely shopped in the high rent neighborhood.
Name a monster free agent and the Red Sox wanted him, from Manny Ramirez to Mark Teixeira to David Price. At some point between Nathan Eovaldi, who made $ 68 million from two good weeks, and Chris Sale, who closed for $ 145 million before his renewal began, owner John Henry decided to stop throwing reckless money after his troubles.
The result last year was one of the saddest free agency periods in modern Red Sox history. They swapped out Mookie Betts and replaced him with ... Martin Perez and Jose Peraza?
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The good news is that the Red Sox can spend more money this year after rolling back their luxury tax penalties - around $ 25 million, give or take - and could take advantage of some market inefficiencies if everyone else turned to the free agency to try turn. The bad news is that they're not close enough to warrant deep free hand swimming for the likes of George Springer and Trevor Bauer.
Where they're likely to land instead is a punch in the middle - and that's fine.
Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom routinely bought bargains during his days with the Rays and often landed absolute steals. For example, the $ 30 million two-year deal Tampa gave veteran right-hander Charlie Morton provided a 16-game winner for their rotation last year when Morton finished third in the AL Cy Young poll.
With the Red Sox having to support a rotation with exactly zero safe things - thanks to Tommy John von Sale's surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez's COVID-related heart problems, and Eovaldi's inconsistency - Bloom would love to find another Morton in a veteran to do this doesn't break the bank, but could deliver serious bang for the money.
Is that jar out there? Let's go over some candidates.
One guy who doesn't cost $ 30 million is old friend Jon Lester. The Cubs are unlikely to avail of the $ 25 million left-handed option, which means the Red Sox could correct the 2014 wrongs when they traded Lester off and then saw him sign with the Cubs, where he got two All -Star teams formed. won at least 18 games twice and led Chicago to its first World Series title in over 100 years.
Lester isn't the pitcher it used to be. His 4.64 ERA over the past two years is below average, his strike rate has dropped from 25 percent in 2015 to 15.9 percent this year, and for the first time in his career he's averaged under 90 miles per fastball Hour reached.
But it won't cost much and it knows the market. Could sentimentality tarnish this hypothesis? Perhaps. But Lester deserves a better goodbye to Boston than the one he got.
If Bloom wants to get closer to Morton, he might do worse than left-handed Mike Minor. The former Braves farm worker made new himself after missing the entire 2015/16 season due to arm surgery. In 2017, he returned as a reliever with the Royals before forming an All-Star team with the Rangers in 2019.
He was sad in 2020 (1-6, 5.56) but he still hit an inning between Texas and Oakland over one stroke. He's a candidate for some tinkering because about 20 percent of his pitches for the past two seasons have been sliders pounding opponents for an average of 300 and a slugging percentage of over 500. His fastball, move, and turn did much better, and maybe there is something he can work with as he nears his 33rd birthday.
If we want to consider a riskier candidate, there is Corey Kluber. The two-time Cy Young winner threw just one inning in 2020 after being limited to seven starts by a broken arm a year earlier. This time he tore a muscle in his shoulder, although the injury did not require surgery. The Rangers have an $ 18 million option on Kluber, but they want to cut their payroll, and Kluber is a natural place to start.
Kluber might be worth a short-term gamble, especially considering he's only two years away from winning 20 games and finishing third in the Cy Young poll. He was perhaps the best pitcher in baseball from 2014-18, going with a 2.85 ERA to 83-45. If that pitcher is still there, it's worth investigating to see if it's recoverable.
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At the other end of the spectrum is Giants right-handed Kevin Gausman. A former Orioles No. 4 overall winner, Gausman spent more than five seasons in Baltimore before being sold to the Braves in 2018. His belongings, including a 95 mph fastball and a devastating splinter, are out of the question. He was only 29 years old and went just 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA while hitting a career high of 11.9 per nine innings.
His relative youth compared to others on this list may price him out of Boston’s reach, but it's the promise of untapped potential that makes him so intriguing.
Finally, we'll mention a few veterans. Former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta has been basically a 500 pitcher for the past three years and will turn 35 in March, but the track record speaks for itself. Most recently he formed an all-star team in 2016, finished above 0.500 in 2017 and won double-digit games in 2018.
At best, he was a horse. The Phillies are expected to turn down his $ 22.5 million option after going 4-4 by 5.08 ERA this season.
Then there's a former Phillies starter in left-handed Cole Hamels. Next year will be the 37-year-old's 16th season and he'll have the first losing campaign of his career behind him. He only made a start for the Braves after signing a $ 18 million contract limited initially by a shoulder injury during off-season training and then by a triceps load during that shortened season.
From 2008 to 19, however, the four-time All-Star started at least 30 times in 10 of 12 seasons. He has relied more on command than power throughout his career, winning at 91-92 mph even in his prime. He is a bounce-back candidate.
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