The Cincinnati Reds were present at the showcase of former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic. The bullpen session of sorts from Kluber this morning saw him throw 30 pitches in front of 25 teams. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that he was sitting in the 88-90 MPH range with his fastball and showed all of his secondary offerings as well.

From 2014-2018 you could make an argument that Corey Kluber was the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. He went 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA in 1091.1 innings that saw him pick up 1228 strikeouts and walk 223 batters. His WAR, Fangraphs version, trailed just Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw in that span and he’s trailing them by less than 1 WAR for that time frame. During that stretch he won the Cy Young Award twice, first in 2014 and then again in 2017. In both 2016 and 2018 he finished third.

Corey Kluber threw over 200 in each season from 2014-2018, and then in 2019 he missed nearly the entire season. He threw just 35.2 innings for Cleveland that year after his arm was fractured when he was hit by a line drive and then an oblique injury as he was working his way back ended his season. In the 2020 season he appeared in just one game and threw just one inning for Texas. The Rangers declined his $18M team option for the 2021 season and Kluber became a free agent.

Coming back from a tear in a muscle in his shoulder, which sounds similar to the injury that Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan suffered several years ago, Corey Kluber needed to show teams what he can do. Passan notes that he was sitting 88-90 with his fastball. That’s down quite a bit from where he’s been at in his career, where he’s averaged 92-93 – the last three years (2018-2020) he’s averaged 92.5, 92.4, and in his one inning in 2020 he was at 92.0. Of course, it’s also January 13th and he’s still building up and assuming he follows the path of nearly every pitcher, he should increase that velocity as he gets further into the year and into spring training and the regular season.

When healthy, Corey Kluber does just about everything well. He misses bats and he walks no one. His home run rate has never been elite, but it’s never been below-average in his career, either. For the most part of his career, he’s been a little bit above average when it comes to stranding runners on the bases, too.

The right-handed starter throws five pitches, mixing a 4-seam fastball with a 2-seamer, a cutter, a slider, and a change up. His sinker, cutter, and slider all have worked in that 20-30% range over the last handful of seasons, while he’s just mixed in a few 4-seamers and change ups each game.

In such a slow market it’s tough to know exactly what kind of deal that Corey Kluber is looking for and what is being offered to him. With that said, it would seem that a deal with plenty of incentives makes sense for both parties. If Kluber can return to form, the team that signs him is going to get all that they paid for and more. But given that he’s thrown 36.1 innings over the last two years and has dealt with a shoulder injury this past season, there’s a lot of risk involved in paying that kind of money up front. Kluber could benefit from a smaller guarantee with higher incentives based on starts or innings pitched than just taking a smaller guarantee without them that would simply get him onto a team.

9 Responses

  1. LDS

    Any reason based on the off season thus far that the Reds would gamble on Kluber? I’m guessing not.

    • Kevin Davis

      Yiu would think not. Based on who the Reds got rid of to save money it makes no sense. Even though he as missed most of the last two years, don’t you think the asking price would at least start at $8 million

    • MK

      A major league $1 million guarantee with incentives for innings would work for me.

  2. JayTheRed

    With the Reds looking to reduce payroll, I don’t know how they would entice him to sign a mid level contract at most 10 million. I am willing to give it a flyer if the team is, but I just highly doubt they will go for this. I am not sure the medical reports and his throwing seem that optimistic either. Everything I have read seems very average or mediocre so far.

  3. Optimist

    Very long odds that this could get serious – but it’s a step up from the mid-teens when they had an far-over-the-hill star each year in Louisville. Those were minimum priced, extreme long shots. Kluber seems to have enough left to justify a price the Reds won’t pay, but if nobody else steps up . . .

  4. scotly50

    There were 24 other teams “checking in” on him, as well.

  5. doofus

    “Never, say never.”

    ~ Sean Connery

  6. TXRedleg

    Next week the Reds are kicking the tires on Jose Rijo. “His slider is still nasty, although there’s some concern his arm may fall off at any time,” said and unnamed scout.

  7. CFD3000

    Kluber is interesting, but I have a hard time seeing this working out for the Reds. This feels like yet another situation where the rich get richer. Some team with deep pockets (looking at you Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox) will take a flyer on Kluber and outspend everyone else, but still not blink at the price tag. If he works out – lottery won. If not, it’s only money. I just don’t think the Reds or any of about a dozen other teams, maybe more in this strange season, can afford the risk. And that’s a shame.