Red Sox extend Garrett Whitlock

The Red Sox have announced a four-year right-handed extension Garret Whitlockwith club options also covering the 2027 and 2028 seasons. Whitlock will earn $18.75 million over the guaranteed four years (2023-26) of the deal, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, and the 2027 option is worth $8.25 million with a $1 million buyout. The 2028 option would pay Whitlock $10.5 million, with a buyout of $500,000. With escalators, option years can be worth up to $4 million more in extra money per season.

Whitlock was already referee-controlled throughout the 2026 season, so the extension gives the Red Sox some cost certainty and also added control over his first two years as a free agent. Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal (Twitter link) has the annual breakdown, starting with a $1 million signing bonus. Whitlock earns $1 million in 2023, $3.25 million in 2024, $5.25 million in 2025, and $7.25 million in 2026.

Garret Whitlock

If the escalators both reach their maximum, Whitlock will receive a total of $44 million over the six-year term of the extension. Cotillo adds that Whitlock is also still eligible for the league’s bonus pool for pre-offer players this season and in 2023, so the right-hander has the opportunity to earn even more money.

Not a bad payday for a pitcher who is barely a year away from making his MLB debut and still hasn’t pitched at the Triple-A level. An 18th-round pick for the Yankees in the 2017 draft, Whitlock had strong numbers in his first three pro seasons, but underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. Without any sort of 2020 season, Whitlock was considered as an under-the-radar pick when the Red Sox selected him away from New York in the December 2020 Rule 5 draft.

It turned out that Whitlock is now one of the best Rule 5 success stories in recent memory. The rookie posted a 1.96 ERA, 49.7% grounder rate, 27.2% strikeout rate and 5.7% walk rate over 73 1/3 innings, acting as a multi-inning lockout reliever out of the Red Sox bullpen. Whitlock’s surprise emergence was a major factor in Boston’s run to the ALCS, and the team has now locked him in as a contributor for most of a decade.

The escalators in the contract are tied in part to inning totals, reflecting the possibility that Whitlock could eventually move from the bullpen to the rotation. Consideration has been given to deploying Whitlock as a starter this year, but the Sox are opting to be as flexible as possible with the use of the right-hander. Whitlock will team up with rich hill in piggyback mode to start the year, which also frees up Whitlock to pitch in other games in high-leverage situations.

This is Chaim Bloom’s third extension as Boston baseball’s chief officer, and the second involving a relief pitcher, following the two-year, $18.75 million pact finalized with Matt Barnes last summer. Despite similar guaranteed salaries, there isn’t much difference between the two contracts, as Barnes was only months away from entering the free agent market. Whitlock, meanwhile, will turn 26 in June and therefore wouldn’t have made it to the open market until he is on the cusp of his 31-year-old season.

While his draft bonus of $247.5,000 was bigger than usual for an 18th round, and the new pre-arb pool provides an additional opportunity to earn more for pre-arb players, he doesn’t It’s not hard to see why Whitlock (with TJ surgery already on his resume) would be eager to secure himself a life-changing fortune so early in his career. There was also an obvious appeal to the Boston side, as overtime is a good deal for the team even though Whitlock remains “only” a stoppage reliever. If Whitlock ends up becoming a starter, the Red Sox should benefit from that early investment in the right-hander.

Photo courtesy of Sports Pictures USA Today

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