Red Sox

MLB Notebook: A look at the pros and cons of various Red Sox free agent pitching targets; Duran’s winter league performance

(Brace Hammelgarn/Getty Images)

The good news for the Red Sox? Plenty of free-agent starting pitchers remain available as the calendar year winds down.

The bad news? They haven't signed any of them yet.

Matt Andriese is seen as more of a depth option, someone who can contribute both in relief and as an occasional spot starter. But Andriese hasn't started more than five games in a single season since 2017, so while he's capable of stepping in when injuries or poor performance from others take place, he can hardly be seen as a viable, regular starter.

For that, the Red Sox will have to spend considerably more than the $1.85 million they guaranteed Andriese for 2021.

There are any number of options available to them. Here's a list of free-agent starters to whom the Sox have been linked, with a breakdown of each candidate's positives and negatives:


Positives: A case could be made that Odorizzi is the best available free agent option after Trevor Bauer. Certainly, he's been among the most durable of major league starters, with 159 or more innings thrown every season from 2014 through 2019. Having pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays for most of his career, Odorizzi is a known commodity to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. Odorizzi has a history of competing in the American League East, after pitching for the Rays for five seasons.
Negatives: The 2020 season was a lost one for Odorrizi, who, because of a chest injury and recurring blister issues, was limited to just four appearances. The blister issues are especially problematic since they can become chronic for some pitchers. It may be a relatively small sample size, but Odorrizi has historically pitched poorly in Fenway, with a career 6.26 ERA over 10 starts.

Skinny: If you consider the Red Sox are set -- by midseason, anyway -- at the top of their rotation with Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale, then Odorizzi would slot in nicely in the No. 3 spot, just ahead of Nathan Eovaldi, his one-time Rays teammate. He's not a glamorous option, but he would eat innings, and last year notwithstanding, has demonstrated he can be counted on for 30-plus starts annually. A three-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $40 million would likely win his services.


Positives: Sugano has been an elite performer in Japan, having twice won the Eiji Sawamura Award -- the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award -- as well as an MVP and another ERA title. He was highly impressive in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, beating Team USA in the semi-finals and holding a powerful American lineup to a single run over six innings. The Red Sox have plenty of history with Japanese pitchers -- from Daisuke Matsuzaka to Koji Uehara to Hideo Nomo and as such, are better prepared than most teams to help Sugano make the many necessary cultural and competitive adjustments coming from the Japanese professional leagues to MLB. Through the posting process, he would cost "only'' salary, with no loss of draft picks or player cost.
Negatives: There's always a degree of uncertainty when it comes to Japanese pitchers making the transition to North America. Everything about the experience -- from level of play, size of the ball, training methods -- is different, making projection difficult. Sugano is 31 and has a lot of mileage on his elbow and shoulder. His velocity and overall performance dipped in 2019, though he rebounded nicely in 2020 (14-2, 1.97 in 20 starts). There remains some lingering concern about his right elbow.