The Cleveland Indians have already traded Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes, and Yonder Alonso. Michael Brantley and Josh Donaldson have already been lost in free agency, and the Indians are unlikely to sign their other two high profile free agents: Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Cleveland is the class of the American League Central, but sees its window as a contender closing rapidly.
A very smart front office is attempting to maintain a competitive team for more than just the next year. As a result, they just might be willing to trade one of their greatest assets, Corey Kluber. In theory, the Indians would trade their best hurler because of a surplus of strong and emerging starting pitching. Might the Milwaukee Brewers be the team that acquires the ace’s services? While this is just the latest in a multitude of rumors including Kluber, Jon Morosi tweeted the Milwaukee Brewers are one of four teams mentioned as having continued interest in the Indians’ ace. This isn’t the first time the team has been linked to Kluber this winter, either.
What would Corey Kluber mean to the Brewers? From 2014-2018, the two-time Cy Young award winner was top 5 in the American League in innings pitched, strike outs, and ERA (except 2015). The man is truly one of the elite pitchers in the game. His WARP was 6.1 last year and 7.5 in the previous year. He has pitched 200 plus innings every year since 2014. His WHIP was below 1.00 for the past two years. And if I could go “old school” for a moment, he is a bulldog on the mound.
Corey Kluber gives the Brewers something that they could really use. He is a top-of-the-rotation arm that will eliminate stress on an already elite bullpen. He is a veteran that will show a talented, yet young Brewers’ rotation how a great pitcher gets it done. And best of all, he should be one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2019 and beyond.
The 3-time All-Star will turn 33 during the 2019 season, so there is risk as he ages. Kluber will also be paid $17 million in 2019, and if club options are exercised, he will make $17.5 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021. While relatively affordable for an ace, $52.5 million over three years is significant money for small market Milwaukee. But salary is not where Klu-bot will be really expensive. To give you an idea of what the Indians are looking for, Morosi identifies a couple of Reds prospects the Indians are interested in.
Senzel is the number 6 ranked prospect and Trammell is the number 17 ranked prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. If the Brewers are truly in on Kluber, the Indians have to be asking about Keston Hiura. Cleveland is thought to be looking for a close-to-major-league-ready centerfielder. That means Corey Ray is on the radar. Getting Kluber means shaving off the top prospects in Milwaukee’s system. A system already decimated because of trades made for Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, Gio Gonzalez, and Christian Yelich (worth it). On top of that, one of Woodruff, Burnes, or Peralta may have to go as well. Personally, I would hate to give up one of those pitchers.
Needless to say, that is probably how expensive Kluber really is, because that is how good he really is. The question is, would David Stearns be comfortable giving up that kind of haul for a 33 year old pitcher, no matter how good?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus