The Boston Red Sox are finally on the board.
New chief baseball officer Craig Breslow pledged to be “aggressive” this winter, but up until now, Boston had yet to make a major free agent signing. Their only notable acquisition had been outfielder Tyler O’Neill, whom they added in a deal with the Cardinals.
To be fair, the Red Sox have been linked to a litany of top free agents this winter, perhaps more than any other team. The list includes Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Teoscar Hernández, Jordan Hicks, Robert Stephenson, Justin Turner, Yariel Rodriguez, Amed Rosario, James Paxton, Whit Merrifield, and Michael A. Taylor.
They also showed keen interest in Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Seth Lugo but lost out to the Dodgers and Royals, respectively.
But now, after putting Red Sox Nation through the wringer for the first two months of the offseason, Boston is finally on the board.
Early on Friday evening, the Red Sox came to terms with starting pitcher Lucas Giolito on a two-year, $38.5 million deal (as first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN). The deal also includes $1 million in extra incentives each year. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this contract.
Giolito can opt-out after the first year of the deal with a minimum of $19 million in his pocket — $18 million in salary plus a $1 million buyout. If he doesn’t exercise the opt-out, he’d collect another $19 million in 2025.
Finally, the contract also comes with a potential team option for a third year. If Giolito fails to throw at least 140 innings in 2025, the Red Sox will have the choice to retain him for $14 million in ‘26. However, if he does reach that threshold, the two sides have a $19 million option. If no option is exercised, he’ll receive a $1.5 million buyout.
Essentially, this is a one-year, prove-it deal with a little extra security on both sides. If Giolito struggles in 2024, he still has a guaranteed job for the following season.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have a chance to keep him around at a bargain rate in 2026, although the odds they’d pick up that option are slim. If Giolito struggles enough next season that he doesn’t exercise his opt-out and fails to reach 140 innings the following year, the Sox might not want anything to do with that $14 million option.
While the details of the agreement are a little complex, the deal ultimately makes perfect sense for both sides. The Red Sox get a durable starter with top-of-the-rotation upside, and Lucas Giolito will get every chance to prove himself worthy of a larger contract next winter.
As I wrote a couple of days ago, “The Red Sox need upside more than anything else this winter. After missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, their only real chance to contend in 2024 is to load up the roster with high-upside players and hope for a miracle… From 2019 to ’21, Giolito made 72 starts with a 3.47 ERA. If he can somehow rediscover that form, he might just be the top-of-the-rotation arm Boston desperately needs.”