Corey Kluber, the 2-time Cy Young Award winner, has been traded to the Texas Rangers. He missed almost all of the 2019 season with a broken arm and an oblique strain – limiting him to 35.2 innings on the season. But over the previous five seasons he threw 1091.1 innings with a 2.85 ERA. The reason he was on the trade block was the fact that Cleveland doesn’t want to spend money, and shedding his $17.5M in payroll for the 2020 season seemed better in their minds. He is also under contract for 2021 at $18M – though there is a $1M buyout.
With how the 2019 season played out there certainly was some unknown with Corey Kluber. But he had a broken arm and an oblique injury – things that at least in theory, shouldn’t hinder his future performance. The Reds have clearly been trying to upgrade their already strong rotation. They’ve been linked to Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and David Price – all of whom either signed, are expected to sign, or are due more money than Corey Kluber is owed.
While Cleveland has been rumored to have been talking about wanting to move the right-handed pitcher in a trade, there really hasn’t been much word on the kind of package asked for. At least not until yesterday, when several teams were “interested”, but then “dropped out”. The Cincinnati Reds weren’t rumored to be one of those teams – though that doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t checking in. But now that we know what the actual package that Cleveland took, the big question is how literally every team in baseball wasn’t involved here.
To acquire Corey Kluber all a team needed to do was commit $18.5M (17.5 for 2020 and 1 for the buyout if you don’t want to bring him back for 2021) and give up Delino DeShields Jr. and Emmanuel Clase. To put that into perspective, Delino DeShields Jr was sent back to the minor leagues at one point this season, and in the 118 big league games he played in this past season, posted a .672 OPS (after posting a .591 OPS last season). He’s essentially a slimmed down version of what Billy Hamilton was for the Reds in his career. Emmanuel Clase is a guy that has some intrigue – he’s a 21-year-old reliever with a big time arm who can throw triple-digits. He threw 23.1 innings in the Majors last season with a 2.31 ERA. But at the end of the day, he’s a rookie reliever.
Ken Rosenthal suggested there may be more to the trade than this. But Zack Meisel of The Athletic is reporting that he’s hearing this is the entire deal.
Cleveland not only traded Kluber, but they also sent Texas CASH to complete the trade.
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Every team in baseball could have matched, and bettered that kind of offer and probably not even felt it. As noted above, there’s some amount of risk involved in acquiring Corey Kluber because of how the 2019 season went for him. But that’s what physicals are for. And assuming he passed it, what’s the risk if the cost is a high-end rookie reliever with limited time in the Major Leagues and a 4th/5th outfielder? A little bit of money spent?
This feels like a big missed opportunity for not only the Reds, but for a lot of teams in baseball. Corey Kluber is a top of the rotation pitcher. And he was just acquired for two guys who are not every day players.