I went on record a few weeks ago as stating I believe Corey Kluber will still be a member of the Cleveland Indians‘ rotation come Opening Day 2019.
I’m not here to double back on that take. However, I’m certainly noticing how often Kluber’s name has been tossed around in the rumor mill since I made it.
The latest instance comes today from Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Per his report, the Indians have been discussing trade scenarios with the Los Angeles Dodgers, most of which have involved parting with a starting pitcher. Today, he noted a potential deal centered around Cleveland trading Kluber for Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.
For the sake of my sanity, I pray this deal doesn’t go through, at least not as currently rumored. Even if L.A. sweetens the pot with a couple pitchers (as Morosi suggests), there’s no ignoring the fact Cleveland would end up on the wrong end of this trade.
Part of the reason I live under the assumption Kluber isn’t going anywhere is the fact the Indians are incredibly miserly when it comes to their rotation. Sure, they’ll tease the availability of a starter or two, just to see what kind of deals other clubs are willing to offer. However, unless Cleveland is completely blown away with a proposal, the team ends up standing pat.
Still, the rumors we’ve heard this offseason have been far louder than what we’re used to. They also involve Cleveland parting with their two-time Cy Young winner, something once thought impossible.
For what it’s worth, everything out there has indicated Cleveland is asking for a haul in return for Kluber, and rightfully so.
A package centered around Puig is not what you’d call a haul.
This isn’t to say he’s a bad player. He’s logged batting averages above .260 in each of the past three seasons, can hit for power and has notched over 100 hits in all but two of his six years in the bigs. While certainly not Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, it’s certainly better production than what the Indians can expect from their current outfield of Greg Allen and some scarecrows.
It’s also production the Indians would likely only enjoy for one season.
Puig is entering his final year of team control, as he’s arbitration eligible for the upcoming season. Early projections have him making around $11 million in 2019. After that, he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Knowing how stingy the Indians tend to be when it comes to the open market, it’s tough to believe they’ll be willing to pony up big money once Puig’s contract comes to an end.
As a result, the Indians would essentially be parting with the ace of their rotation for a deal centered around a player they’d only have in their clubhouse for the 2019 season.
One could argue dealing away Kluber and the $46 million he’s owed over the next three seasons (not counting escalators) could make it a little easier to commit to Puig beyond next year. However, considering there are other roster holes to address, and a future Hall of Famer at shortstop the team badly needs to keep around, it’s tough to believe Cleveland would set aside any extra cash for their newly acquired outfielder.
You can also note the Indians clearly wouldn’t just accept a one-for-one deal, swapping Kluber for Puig straight up. The Dodgers will have to sweeten the pot, and Morosi suggests doing so with pitchers Alex Wood and Yadier Alvarez.
This is still not enough, in part because Wood also enters free agency at the end of the 2019 season. Considering this, and the aforementioned contract situation with Puig, Cleveland would be dealing one of the best pitchers in the game for one prospect and a season’s worth of Puig and Wood.
Again, unless Los Angeles significantly adds more to the deal than just Puig, it’s not even close to being worthy of getting them Kluber in return.
There’s no indication such a deal is on the verge of completion, so it’s nothing to start panicking about just yet.
That said, if a deal like this does go through, then yes, it’s definitely time to panic.