John Tomase

Giolito had few options outside Red Sox, hopes to hit FA again soon

The new Red Sox pitcher might not be in Boston very long.

NBC Universal, Inc.

After two lousy years and one particularly terrible second half leading directly into free agency, Lucas Giolito was relieved to receive a lifeline from the Red Sox.

They conducted a Zoom call with the right-hander early in free agency and made it clear he was a priority. Giolito left the call hoping he would find his way to Boston.

He needn't have worried. With the Red Sox pulling back yet again in free agency, and with the rest of baseball focused on the top end of the starting market, Giolito wasn't exactly a hot commodity.

"It wasn't very many, I'll say that," he admitted, when asked which other teams expressed interest. "It wasn't crazy."

So the 29-year-old bet on himself by signing a one-year deal with the Red Sox that will pay him $18 million in 2024 with a $19 million player option for 2025, plus a possible 2026 option and incentives that could push the value of the entire deal to $58 million.

If Giolito pitches like he believes he's capable, and which he had demonstrated while earning Cy Young votes with the White Sox in 2019 and 2021, then he'll be a free agent again at this time next year, pursuing a deal more in line with his perceived worth.

"I'm coming off a down season, and the year before that was a down season, too," he said. "So committing to a long-term deal at a value that I don't necessarily see myself at or not really having interest from teams in that type of deal, it didn't really make sense.

"What makes sense for me is going somewhere where I know I'm going to be comfortable, I know I'm going to get better, and I truly believe that with the Red Sox organization."

The Red Sox sold Giolito on the idea of being an innings-eater in the middle of a rotation that required too many bullpen games and was one of only eight not to average at least five innings a start in 2023. Giolito, by contrast, is coming off a career-high 184.1 innings and has thrown at least 170 in four of the last six years.

The downside is that his performance has suffered considerably since he went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 2021. He's 19-24 with a 4.89 ERA over the last two years, a far cry from the breakout 2019 All-Star who led the league in complete games and shutouts. He followed up that performance with a no-hitter during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

"It starts mechanically," Giolito said. "I'm always at my best when I'm compact and athletic. And I feel that over the last couple of seasons that I've fallen into a few bad habits where I kind of leak down the mound, get a little long, and it puts me in a position to not be able to deliver pitches consistently. It starts there, and then when you're spiraling a little bit, that's when it can hit you mentally. So the biggest thing right now is for me getting right back to where was in that 2019-21 range."

One area he's intent on fixing is keeping the ball in the park. He allowed a league-leading 41 home runs last year, a total reached by only six other pitchers in the last two decades.

"That was the result of too much falling behind, too much missing middle-middle, missing middle-in, just not executing," he said. "It was kind of an astounding number, the number of home runs I gave up. I just need to get to a point where I'm more consistently executing pitches where they need to be and sequencing better, and then we'll be able to bring that number down significantly."

If the season unfolds as planned, Giolito could be a one-and-done in Boston.

"I'm not a fan at all of my recent performances," he said. "So I'd like to do the more short-term option and really kind of re-bolster and get back to what I know I can do in this league and then go from there."

Contact Us