Red Sox Showing Early Interest In Pitchers; Not Close On Devers Extension

As the off-season gets underway, much of attention around the Red Sox has been focused on the free agency Xander Bogaerts and the ongoing contract talks with third baseman Rafael Devers, but it Boston is showing early interest in adding pitching this winter. Chris Cotillo of reports that the Red Sox are “digging around the pitching market”, and have been linked to Andrew Heaney and Seth Lugo among others. Jon Morosi of MLB Network has more on their interest in pitching, stating they’ve shown interest – alongside the Angels – in starter Tyler Anderson.

Boston does have a reasonable amount of pitching signed for next season, but a most of it comes with major question marks. Chris Sale is owed $27.5MM but has made just eleven starts in the past three years. James Paxton opted into his $4MM player option for next season, but he didn’t pitch at all in 2022. Brayan Bello showed promise in eleven starts in 2022 and could have a bright future, but those were the first eleven starts of his major league career and he’s still raw. The Red Sox are intending to use Garrett Whitlock as a starter in 2023, but he’s pitched better out of the bullpen and made just nine starts this season. That leaves Nick Pivetta as the only dependable option in Boston’s rotation at this stage, so it’s no surprise they’re looking to add pitching.

Anderson has enjoyed something of a late breakout with the Dodgers this past season. He generally checked in as a solid, back of the rotation starter across his first six seasons in the majors with the Rockies, Giants, Pirates and Mariners. With the Dodgers however, he tossed 178 2/3 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, easily the best numbers of his career and first since 2016 where his ERA had finished under four. A lot of that was due to restricting the long ball, as Anderson’s HR/9 more than halved from 2021 (1.46 down to 0.71). Anderson did receive a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, so there’s every chance he accepts that one-year, $19.65MM deal and returns to LA.

Heaney, on the other hand, was not tendered a qualifying offer but also enjoyed his own breakout campaign. He pitched to a 3.10 ERA through 72 2/3 innings as a result of leaning more on his slider and less on his changeup. Those numbers came with a significant increase in strikeout rate, as he posted a 35.5% rate, well above his previous high of 28.9% in 2019. He did miss around three months across two separate IL stints with left shoulder problems, so there are some durability concerns.

Lugo has enjoyed six solid seasons pitching out of the Mets bullpen. He threw 65 innings of 3.60 ERA ball, maintaining a strong walk rate of 6.6% and a solid strikeout rate of 25.4%. While it’s not lights out stuff for a reliever, Lugo does have plenty of value as a durable middle reliever. While there’s a case to be made for any or all of these three pitchers finding their way to Boston this winter, it’s still early and the Red Sox will be casting a wide net in their pursuit of pitching.

On the other side of the ball, the Red Sox appear to be some way off agreeing to a contract extension with Devers. The star third baseman will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports that while there is some optimism towards a deal, the two sides remain far apart. Heyman reports that the Red Sox offered Devers a contract slightly above the ten-year, $212MM deal that Austin Riley received from the Braves, but Devers is seeking more than $300MM in an extension.

Devers had another brilliant season in 2022, mashing 27 home runs and compiling a .295/.358/.521 line in 141 games. His wRC+ mark of 140 was the best of his career, but his previous marks of 133, 108 and 132 show he’s regularly been a superb hitter. Defensively, he improved on 2021 but still graded out with negative numbers per Outs Above Average (-2) and Defensive Runs Saved (-6). Given he’s already amassed 18.1 fWAR and will be hitting free agency entering his age-27 season, it’s no surprise Devers is seeking big money. The left-hander would be one of the top free agents available on the open market should the Red Sox fail to lock him in before then.

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