Free-agency grades: Rays look to solidify rotation with Kluber

  • Covers MLB for ESPN.com
  • Former deputy editor of Page 2
  • Been with ESPN.com since 1995

The Tampa Bay Rays won 100 games in 2021, proof that a great starting rotation need not be necessary in this era of baseball, at least not with every team. It’s not that the Rays’ rotation was terrible — it finished a respectable sixth in the American League with a 4.08 ERA — but the team had obvious holes. Consider:

  • The Rays’ top two starters in terms of innings pitched were Ryan Yarbrough (5.11 ERA) and Michael Wacha (5.05 ERA).

  • Rays starters finished 14th of the 15 AL teams in innings pitched.

  • The Rays were 13th in quality starts, finishing ahead of only the Twins and the Orioles.

So it’s no surprise the Rays would look to bolster their rotation this offseason, especially since Wacha has already departed to the Boston Red Sox. On Sunday, they agreed to terms with two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber on an $8 million deal that could earn him up to $13 million.

Kluber, coming off two seasons of injuries (he made seven starts with Cleveland in 2019 and one start with Texas in 2020), signed a similar deal with the Yankees ($11 million) in 2021. It started well — a 5-3 record with a 3.83 ERA and a no-hitter through May 19 — but then Kluber missed three months with a shoulder strain. His final six starts came in late August and September, after he returned from his shoulder injury, and in those outings he pitched more than 4⅔ innings just once with a 5.40 ERA.

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