The Red Sox made their first move to help their starting rotation last week, agreeing to a one-year deal with Corey Kluber that has a club option for a second season.
Kluber, 36, was one of the top starting pitchers in baseball during the 2010s but has bounced around in recent seasons. The Red Sox will be the fifth team he’s played for over the last five years.
Here are five things to know about Kluber.
He’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Kluber was a late bloomer. After being selected in the fourth-round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Padres, Kluber (who was traded to Cleveland in 2010) didn’t make his MLB debut until September 2011 but wasn’t a regular MLB player until midway through the 2013 season, when he was 27. Once Kluber got to the big leagues though, he made his presence known.
Kluber went 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 24 starts in 2013. A year later, he became an elite pitcher, especially as the season went on. He pitched back-to-back 14 strikeout games in September of 2014, helping him finish with an 18-9 record to go along with a 2.44 ERA, a league-leading 2.35 FIP, and 269 strikeouts in 235⅔ innings. The late-season push earned him the Cy Young Award.
Kluber pitched seven complete games and posted a sub-3.50 ERA over the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
In 2017 though, Kluber upped his game to another level, going 18-4 with a league-best 2.25 ERA and a 2.50 FIP in 203⅔ innings. He also led the American League in complete games (5), shutouts (3), ERA+ (202), and WHIP (0.869). Kluber’s dominance made him the clear-cut choice to win his second Cy Young, receiving 28 of 30 first-place votes.
He’s dealt with injuries in recent seasons but had a healthy 2022.
Following another All-Star season in 2018, Kluber’s time in Cleveland dwindled down in 2019. The righty fractured his throwing arm when a line drive hit him in May of that season. Kluber suffered abdominal tightness in during a rehab start in August, which ended up being the last game he pitched for the Cleveland organization.
Kluber was traded to the Texas Rangers prior to the 2020 season but only pitched one inning and was shut down after being diagnosed with a Grade 2 tear of the teres major muscle in the back of his right shoulder.
Kluber signed a one-year deal with the Yankees prior to 2021 after receiving interest from several teams, including the Red Sox. He pitched efficiently in his lone season in pinstripes, posting a 3.83 ERA and tossing a no-hitter in May. However, he suffered a strain in his pitching shoulder in late May that cost him three months and led to him making just 16 starts and pitching 80 innings that season.
Kluber had a return to health with the Rays in 2022, where he made 30 starts and pitched 164 innings. He went 10-10 with a 4.34 ERA and a 3.57 FIP. He tailed off a bit though in the second half, going 4-5 with a 5.14 ERA in 13 starts.
He doesn’t issue many free passes.
Not many pitchers are better at finding the strike zone over the last 10 years than Kluber. He’s led the American League in walks per nine innings three times, including last season, when he had a 1.2 BB/9. Kluber also had a three percent walk percentage, the best in all of baseball in 2022.
He was a bit unlucky last season.
The Red Sox might be making a bold bet on a pitcher who’ll be 37 for much of the upcoming season, but not without reason.
Opposing hitters posted a .274/.304/.425 line against Kluber last season, with two of those being higher than the expected outcome. Kluber had a .261 expected batting average against and a .416 expected slugging percentage against last season but a .310 expected weighted on-base percentage, per Baseball Savant. He had an expected ERA of 4.00 and a 3.57 FIP compared to a 4.33 ERA in 2022.
He lives in Winchester.
Kluber grew up in Alabama, went to high school in Texas, and attended Stetson College in Florida, where he met his wife, Amanda, who is from Winchester. Following the 2016 season, the couple decided to move back to her hometown to raise their three children.
“This is where we wanted to raise our family, and our kids were at the point where they were about to start school, so that was the main reason we decided to move,” Kluber said in an interview with the New England Baseball Journal in 2019. “We didn’t want to have them bounce around from school to school once they got started. So that was why we decided to move back when we did.”