Potential Landing Spots for Corey Kluber

Corey Kluber

Once a high-profile ace for the Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber finds himself on the free agent market as a potential bounce-back candidate for 2021. The two-time Cy Young award winner has made a combined eight starts since 2018.

He will be 35 in April, but he showed no signs of slowing down in his most recent healthy season. In 2018, he went 20-7 while pitching to a 2.89 ERA in a league-leading 215 innings pitched with 222 strikeouts. That season was the fifth-straight season in which Kluber received consideration for the AL Cy Young award, and he was top-three four times in that stretch, including his two victories. In three of those years, he led the league in complete games and shutouts.

Clearly, he was capable of giving high-volume and high-value innings at his best for the Indians. His situation is a little different now. His ERA is 5.65 in the past two seasons although that stems from the plethora of injuries he has dealt with. The most concerning injury he suffered was a torn shoulder muscle that ended his 2020 season with the Texas Rangers after one inning. If healthy, he should still be able to contribute quality innings to his employer in 2021.

Just about every team needs more starting pitching. Kluber’s value is not high after starting eight games in two years, but every team should be interested in a player with his resume available for a cheap contract. The following five teams pose to be especially good fits for Kluber.

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are known to do their due diligence on any available option in the offseason, but there is definitely a fit for Kluber with the team right now. Despite signing Gerrit Cole last offseason, the Yankees’ rotation is filled with question marks as Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ are all currently free agents.

The organization already has big money tied up to Cole and Giancarlo Stanton and will most likely need a sizeable offer for DJ LeMahieu to re-sign. Therefore, they will need to make some economical moves to help improve the roster while staying under luxury tax threshold. Kluber fits that description. With his value diminished from his injury-plagued seasons, he should not command a large sum of money.

Additionally, joining the Yankees would allow him to reunite with current Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, whom Kluber worked with in the Indians organization and Director of Player Health and Performance Eric Cressey, whom Kluber has worked out with in past offseasons.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers declined Kluber’s $18 million option for 2021, paying him a $1 million buyout. However, a return is not out of the question. The organization is open to bringing him back on a cheaper contract. In 2020, the Rangers made several additions to their rotation, Kluber being one of them, with the hopes of riding strong starting pitching to contention.

Their rotation plans did not work out well in 2020. Aside from getting one inning out of Corey Kluber, Mike Minor was also inconsistent before being traded while Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson posted ERAs of 7.02 and 5.35, respectively.

Corey Kluber also has the name brand that could help the Rangers sell tickets heading into, hopefully, the first season with fans allowed access to their new stadium. Lance Lynn had a great first half, and could have netted a good return at the trade deadline. The Rangers held on to him, likely with the hopes that his presence would draw fans next year, as well. Therefore, it is possible that they bring Kluber back with similar a thought in mind.

San Diego Padres

After years of stockpiling young talent, the San Diego Padres took major strides forward in 2020. They made the postseason for the first time since 2006 before falling to the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

One of the flaws for the team was the starting rotation. While they addressed that need by acquiring Mike Clevinger, adding more depth to their rotation can only help. Clevinger and Kluber played together in Cleveland and a reunion in San Diego could help the Padres make a return to the postseason in 2021.

Clevinger has posted a 3.11 ERA or better in three straight seasons and Dinelson Lamet posted a 2.09 ERA and 0.855 WHIP in 69 innings in 2020. Slotting a heathy Kluber in behind them with Chris Paddack will bolster the Padres’ rotation.

Boston Red Sox

Coming off of a last place finish, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a unique situation. Despite a 24-36 record, they still have several core players on their roster from their 108-win, World Series champion team from 2018. Additionally, they should see the returns of Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez to their rotation with Alex Cora officially back in the dugout.

Kluber has ties to New England. He trains in central Massachusetts in the offseason, and his wife is from Winchester, MA. There is a level of comfort in the area for Kluber, where a signing makes sense. With the Red Sox getting key pitchers back, a healthy Kluber makes for a good addition to help the Red Sox contend.

Tampa Bay Rays

Corey Kluber signing with the Tampa Bay Rays works well because his low-cost price tag fits the Rays’ strategy. In fact, the Rays have already declined their option for Charlie Morton because of the money he was owed for 2021.

While Kluber does not fit their mold of finding undervalued players and helping them reach their potential, they can help him resurrect his career, similar to what they did with Aaron Loup in 2020.

Loup started his career with a 2.77 ERA from 2012-2014, but regressed to a 4.18 ERA from 2015-2019. Once the Rays got ahold of Loup, they transformed him back into a viable relief option with a 2.25 ERA, and he made nine postseason appearances. Kluber could fit that mold as the Rays help him rebound from the past two seasons.

Given the state of MLB economics, Kluber’s resume, and the small sum of money he should command, he would make a great low-risk, high-reward signing for any team, but the fit for these five teams stands out most.

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