Last March, a week before the pandemic threw the world one hellacious curveball, the Red Sox took a minor gamble and signed right-hander Collin McHugh to a one-year, $600,000 contract.
They already knew the veteran wouldn't be ready for the start of the season while rehabbing an elbow injury, but they made the leap anyway because they believed he could add upside, being only two years removed from posting a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances with the Astros.
The McHugh experiment ended in July when he opted out of the season after his rehab hadn't quite born fruit, and he felt the pull to spend quarantine with his family. But the Red Sox believed signing McHugh before he had fully healed was a risk worth taking, and that brings us to Corey Kluber.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner plans to throw for scouts sometime next month as he works his way back from a season-ending shoulder injury. The Red Sox will almost assuredly be in attendance as they seek to upgrade a starting rotation that wilted without ace Chris Sale or 19-game winner Eduardo Rodriguez last year.
Speaking on a Zoom call with reporters on Monday, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was asked about the hypothetical of watching a former Cy Young winner work out. Would the team want proof that he's healed, or would it gamble on a recovery, à la McHugh?
"Can't imagine who you might be talking about," Bloom joked. "I would say hypothetically, but I actually think it's really difficult to take hypothetically because so much depends on the specifics of the situation. Obviously with anybody who is working their way back from injury, the medical evaluation plays a huge role and how you forecast that going. And other factors, obviously the timing of the market, the desires of the player, what other decisions you might have to make at that time."
The Red Sox have already been linked to Kluber via multiple reports, which makes sense. The right-hander spends his winters in his wife's native Winchester and he splits his workouts between Eric Cressey facilities in Hudson, Mass. and Florida.
When healthy, the 34-year-old is a horse. He has won a Cy Young Award as recently as 2017 and 20 games as recently as 2018. He has been limited to just eight starts over the past two years by injuries -- the first a line drive that broke his arm, and the second the shoulder tear that limited him to one inning in 2020.
If he proves he's healthy, he could be the steal of the offseason. Then again, maybe it behooves the Red Sox to get a jump on the competition and leave the remainder of his rehab to faith.
"It's hard to answer in the abstract," Bloom said, "but I think it just falls under the heading of the way I've talked about a lot of the other decisions we have to make this offseason. We need to be active, we need to be fully informed, we need to make sure we have as much information as possible, and then just try to make the best decision from there, looking at every decision in the context of the larger market."