RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Kluber's notable connection to Boston, explained

RED SOX INSIDER

Perhaps there's a local solution to the Red Sox' rotation woes.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber was born in Alabama, raised in Texas, and educated in Florida, but the big right-hander makes his offseason home in a most surprising place -- Winchester, Mass.

How did a 10-year vet who spent nine years in Cleveland before tossing one inning for the Rangers last year become a Massachusetts resident? His wife, Amanda, is a Winchester native who met Kluber during their undergrad days at Stetson University.

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They were married in 2010 and wanted to raise their three children in a stable environment near her family rather than hopping all over the country in the nomadic style of a ballplayer, so they moved to Winchester shortly after Kluber's Indians fell agonizingly short in the 2016 World Series.

"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 told 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."

Kluber's nascent New England roots aren't what makes him attractive to the Red Sox, of course. They're in desperate need of pitching, and Kluber is one of the most intriguing names on the market, thanks to an unrivaled pedigree among free agents.

 

A Cy Young winner as recently as 2017 and an All-Star and 20-game winner as recently as 2018, Kluber has experienced a string of setbacks since. In May of 2019, a line drive broke his arm. He rehabbed to the cusp of rejoining the Indians rotation, but a strained abdominal muscle ended his season.

Traded to Texas last winter, he debuted in July for the Rangers, but lasted just one inning before leaving with shoulder pain and being diagnosed with a tear of the teres major muscle. He hasn't pitched since.

MLB Network reported on Tuesday that Kluber has drawn interest from the Red Sox, who will cast a net far and wide for starters after enduring a 2020 season of roster filler without Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Already this winter, a handful of veteran starters have agreed to short-term deals. The Braves signed Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to one-year contracts worth $15 million and $11 million, respectively. Left-hander Mike Minor got two years and $18 million from the Royals, while Robbie Ray signed for one year and $8 million with the Blue Jays.

Kluber played last year on a $17.5 million club option. He turns 35 in April and is unlikely to receive a long-term offer in the current market. He trains at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, Mass. and Jupiter, Fla., where one of his workout partners is Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck.

MLB exec sees Boston as one of Kluber's three landing spots

If he's healthy, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder could be for Chaim Bloom in Boston what Morton was for him in Tampa -- a seemingly low-impact signing that pays massive dividends. Kluber is a late bloomer who didn't become a full-time big league starter until age 27, but over the five-year stretch from 2014-18, the stoic man they call "Klubot" for his chiseled physique and mechanical precision was probably the best pitcher in baseball, going 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA and the two Cy Young Awards.

A healthy Kluber features a nasty two-seam fastball that sits at 93 mph and reaches 97. He compliments it with a devastating slider to tie up left-handed hitters and a hard-breaking slurve that's a plus pitch as well. Even in a launch-angle obsessed era, he's able to do most of his damage down in the zone.

Perhaps that's the arsenal he'll bring to Boston should the sides agree to a deal. If that happens, this much we know -- he'll have an easy commute.