It’s the first full day of the Winter Meetings, and one of the day’s early storylines are trade talks surrounding Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.
Cleveland is looking to trim its payroll while remaining competitive in the American League, and that has them fielding offers for the two-time Cy Young award winner. Kluber is coming off another phenomenal year, but after signing Carlos Carrasco to a longterm extension, the team is looking to see if they could maybe capitalize on Kluber’s value to strengthen other areas of the team.
Specifically, they seem to be interested in young outfielders, according to Fox Sports and MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi. The current apple of their eye is top Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo, who LA has considered untouchable in the past. But Morosi also mentions the Brewers as a possible spot for Kluber.
This should probably come with the disclaimer that Morosi seems to be speculating more than reporting the Brewers as a legitimate contender to land Kluber at this point, although knowing David Stearns, it would be surprising if he didn’t at least check in to gauge the early asking price.
That price would very likely include much more than Corey Ray, who is nowhere near the quality of prospect as Verdugo or even Florial, who was ranked as Baseball America’s 38th-overall prospect heading into last year. Verdugo could step into Cleveland’s lineup on Opening Day next year, Florial and Ray couldn’t.
While Cleveland may want an outfielder as the centerpiece of a trade, it’s hard to believe they’d move Kluber without getting some pitching back in return as well, and that’s something the Brewers don’t really have unless they want to dip into the Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff/Freddy Peralta pool. Still, Tom Haudricourt says he’s hearing the Brewers might have the pieces to make a deal happen.
Someone familiar with what Indians are looking for in a deal for Corey Kluber tells me #Brewers could satisfy their needs. I’m just not sure how #Brewers would squeeze Kluber’s $17 million salary into their budget. Seems to me they’d have to deal another salary away (Thames?).
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 10, 2018
Kluber will be 33 next year and has yet to show many significant signs of slowing down, striking out 222 batters and walking just 34 in 215 innings last year. He did allow 25 home runs, but that’s likely a sign of the times and the fact he hardly ever throws a pitch out of the strike zone means he’s going to give up home runs — there’s just nobody on base. The Brewers saw that first hand this year when they beat him 3-2 by scoring all 3 runs thanks to a pair of homers.
2019 is Kluber’s last guaranteed year under contract, and he’ll be owed $17 million. But his contract also includes two additional team options — for $17.5 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021 — with $1 million buyouts for each.
In other words, Kluber is a rare true Capital-A Ace who could possibly be under team control for 3 more seasons without ever making more than $20 million per year. That’s hard to find, and it won’t come cheap via trade. There’s a good chance, though, he just may be worth it.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference