What Will the Red Sox’s Rotation Look Like With Addition of Corey Kluber?

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Two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber is off the market, as the right-hander has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. Boston has seen a number of notable defections this winter, including several of the team’s starters from last season. The Red Sox will look to replace some of those innings with Kluber, an oft-injured pitcher who managed to eat innings for Tampa last season.

Related: How the Braves’ Bullpen Stacks Up Entering 2023

A Look at Kluber

From 2014-2018, it was hard to find a better starter in the Majors than Corey Kluber. The right-hander recorded the ninth-best K/9 (10.1), the fourth-best ERA (2.85), and the fourth-best WHIP (0.99) over that span (min. 400 IP), figures that put Kluber alongside the likes of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Jacob deGrom. Those numbers earned Kluber three All-Star appearances and two AL Cy Young awards (2014 & 2017) for the former Cleveland ace. Then, injuries hit.

Kluber missed most of 2019 and 2020, before the right-hander wound up with the Yankees in 2021. The Stetson product showed flashes of the old Kluber in New York, as the righty struck out 82 over 80.1 innings with the Yankees and threw a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in May of that season.

Shoulder issues forced Kluber to miss all of the second half of 2021. After that season, the 36-year-old joined Tampa for 2022 on a one-year deal. The right-hander stayed relatively healthy for the Rays, as Kluber logged 164 innings last season. That total was the most Kluber logged in a single season since his 20-win campaign in 2018. Across those 164 innings, Kluber logged respectable 4.34 ERA and 1.21 WHIP figures, as well as a league-leading BB/9 (1.2) rate.

Kluber showed improved control last season, something that had been an issue since 2018. On the other hand, Kluber didn’t miss as many bats as in the past. Aside from an abbreviated 2019 campaign, Kluber’s 23.9% Whiff% rate marked the lowest of his career. Kluber doesn’t have the stuff from his Cy Young days, but the righty showed he can still beat hitters with his signature pitch: a slurve that still possess good movement and spin.

It’s also hard not to notice the drop in velocity. In his prime, Kluber thrived on a sinker that sat in the low-to-mid 90’s, alongside a high-80’s cutter and mid-80’s breaking ball. Now, Kluber’s sinker sits in the high-80’s, while his cutter and slurve have seen similar dips.

Kluber will stay in the AL East, as he heads to a Boston team in transition.

A Look at the Red Sox

With Kluber in tow, here’s a look at the starting pitching options for Boston in 2023:

Additionally, starter/relievers Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock, LHP James Paxton, and prospects Bryan Mata and Chris Murphy could figure into Boston’s rotation next season.

As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, the rotation for the Sox next season will look very different. Boston already lost LHP Rich Hill (Pirates) and RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Rangers) — two starters who logged over 100 innings in 2022 — in free agency this winter. RHP Michael Wacha, meanwhile, currently remains a free agent after a strong 2022 campaign with Boston. With those three out of the picture, it looks like the top of the Sox’ rotation will be compromised of Kluber, Nick Pivetta, and Chris Sale, the latter of whom has been the subject of trade rumors in recent days.

There are a lot of question marks in Boston’s rotation, even with the addition of Kluber. A number of the names mentioned above have either significant injury histories, or are unproven commodities. Kluber falls under the former category, but the 36-year-old could still be an innings eater for the Sox this season, if his 2022 season is any indication. That scenario would be an ideal one for a Red Sox team that could look very different 12 months from now.