Garrett Whitlock’s rise, cemented by an eight-figure contract, is nothing short of a storybook
“It’s a bet we should be making,” President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom said.
It’s life-changing money for a player who had Tommy John surgery in 2019, then worked two part-time jobs in 2020 to earn a living when minor league baseball was shut down by the pandemic.
The Sox selected Whitlock in the 2020 Rule 5 draft, dropping him from the Yankees organization based on what their scouts saw before his elbow gave way.
He has since been one of their best pitchers, a reliever with the necessary pitch mix and the skills to become a starter. It was like finding a precious stone in a pile of gravel.
“It’s still so surreal,” said Whitlock, who was accompanied by his wife, Jordan, for the event.
A deal like this isn’t just about statistics. The Sox bet on the kind of person Whitlock is.
Manager Alex Cora has said several times over the past year that Whitlock is even dedicated to making sure he does a good job carrying beer on the team bus during road trips. That’s how perfect a teammate he was.
I had to ask. What makes someone so good at carrying beer that it’s part of their origin story?
The answer was revealing.
“For me, I just want to have a servant’s heart,” Whitlock said. “It’s my most important thing. I grew up, and my father and my mother put it in my head that everything revolves around other people.
“Because I want to serve people as much as I can. I want to love others. That’s what I feel like my real purpose here is to just love others and show the grace and gratitude that was shown to me. That’s why I want to do this. That’s literally all I can do to help.
Sometimes that means having a cold beer ready for a teammate.
Negotiations were finalized a few hours before the first game of the season on Friday. Whitlock still had to pass a physical to make it official, but he pitched 2⅓ innings, striking out four and giving up a run.
Bloom hasn’t committed to Whitlock becoming a starter, but the contract is structured to pay him more based on the number of innings he pitches.
“He definitely has that edge,” Bloom said. “We will see how it plays out over this summer. We want to make sure that what we make him do helps us win. The benefit to him of being able to do this is exciting.
If Whitlock becomes the starter the Sox believe he can be, having him under the team’s control through 2028 for less than $7.5 million a year will be an incredible bargain.
This cost will certainly allow the Sox to pursue other opportunities. On a much smaller scale, the deal is similar to what the Rays did when they signed Wander Franco for 11 years and $182 million.
“I think the best way to look at these kinds of deals is that it’s a sharing of risk and reward between a club and a player,” Bloom said. “There are benefits and the possibility of potentially being able to keep him here longer under this agreement is really important.
“And there’s the commitment that we make to him to get that capability and that option to do that.”
Signing a young player to a long-term contract requires a leap of faith.
“You have to trust that the contract won’t change the player,” Bloom said. “We couldn’t have more faith in Garrett that he’s going to back this up.”
When the press conference broke down, the Sox pitchers in the back of the room started cheering. Then the Sox went on to beat the Yankees, 4-3, for their first win of the season.
“That’s the environment we want,” Bloom said. “That says a lot about Garrett and what they think of him. It’s a great day.
Peter Abraham can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.