Corey Kluber is coming off a season in which he made one, yes one, start for the Texas Rangers. In 20 years, naming all of the teams Corey Kluber played for is going to be an extremely hard trivia question as everyone is going to forget about his tenure in Texas. Last season, the Rangers traded for him thinking he could put them over the top and help them get to the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they gave up players and got 1 inning in return. Now, Kluber heads into free agency as one of the most interesting free agent pitchers out there because he is a low-risk. high-reward player currently. Heading into 2019, Corey Kluber was arguably on pace to one day head to the Hall of Fame as he won two Cy Youngs and was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball for 5+ straight season. He was pure dominance while in Cleveland and carried that rotation that featured Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and by the end of Kluber’s tenure, Shane Bieber. I’m sure Corey is super disappointed in what became of his 2020 season, but now he can get on a one year, “prove it” deal and play anywhere he wants. He could also go for the longer contract and accept a lower AAV than he probably deserves as a result of his time in Cleveland. There’s two things in common with most teams this offseason, a lot of them need starting pitching badly, and a lot of teams are being extremely cheap. Corey Kluber may fit both of those bills and should be on quite a few teams’ radars.
The Case to Bring Him Back
The Rangers recently traded their best pitcher, Lance Lynn, to the White Sox. 2020 was not a good year for the Rangers, but Lynn was certainly the bright spot of the team. Trading the team’s best player does not give off great signals about the 2021 Rangers. The Rangers’ number one motivation to bring Kluber back would probably be so they didn’t give away players and prospects for nothing. You want to at least get some return for what they gave up. They could bring him back on a one year deal and let him lead the rotation while also teaching the young guys in the organization how to have a winning mentality. He still has the potential to be a really dominant pitcher in 2021, so maybe they sign him to a one year deal, see what he can do, and try to trade him at the trade deadline and get some capital back into the organization. If he leaves, they are going to be a super young team and probably be projected as one of the bottom teams for next season. If I’m the Rangers, I’d at least entertain a reunion. They obviously saw something in him when they traded for him so maybe what they saw will motivate them to keep him and try to get some of the production they thought was possible.
The Perfect Fits
If there’s a team that loves buying low on starting pitching and trying to get them back to relevance, it’s the Angels. For a team that has Mike Trout, they sure do invest a lot of their huge payroll into other hitters instead of putting it into what seems to have been their main problem forever now: starting pitching. Many Angels fans are tweeting #BauertoAnaheim as they hope to bring home the big fish. Even if they did this though, they are still going to need more help as I think we can all agree they are not one Bauer away from the World Series. Kluber would be able to join a really exciting team that could get him a lot of run support, bolster his stats, and help him get an even bigger contract in 2022. That stadium is also a very solid stadium to pitch in, so that would definitely benefit Kluber. I think this is a great fit for both sides as the Angels would begin to plug up their biggest hole and Kluber would be able to try to get back to his dominant ways while also (hopefully) being in the playoff discussion all season.
Atlanta has been quite successful in the past few years at giving out one-year, “prove it” deals and having the players they sign absolutely prove it. This could be one reason Kluber would want to go to Atlanta, to try to rebuild his reputation. Like the Angels, the Braves will also put runs on the board every single night as their lineup is stacked with studs. Kluber could come to Atlanta, absolutely shove, and no one would even bat an eye because it’s Corey Kluber and it’s the Atlanta Braves, we’d all expect as much. The Braves biggest problem for 2020 was their starting pitching, so adding Kluber to that extremely young rotation could look really nice. It would remind me of when they brought Keuchal in. Dallas was able to come in and pitch well enough to get him a bigger contract with the White Sox. Perhaps this is exactly what Kluber wants to do to. Not to mention, Atlanta putting Fried, Soroka, and Anderson next to Kluber and letting them observe how he works would be huge for the franchise’s growth and for those pitchers to continue on the trajectories they are on. Last tidbit, Kluber’s from Alabama, so he’d be pretty close to home.
The Good Fits
The Yankees are reportedly far off in contract talks with DJ LeMahieu. He still remains their number one priority, but it seems they are going to have to make more room in the budget than they perhaps wanted or planned to. What does this mean for them? They probably aren’t going to have a ton of money, after they sign DJ, to bring back the starting pitching help they need. With Tanaka and Paxton being free agents, they are in a bit of a crunch at starting pitcher. I think Kluber could fit that rotation very well and would be a relatively cheap option for the Yankees. It may come down to choosing to spend on Tanaka or Kluber, but I think there would be a chance that the Yankees choose Kluber over Tanaka as they believe their analytics and coaching could get him back to his 2017 self. I think the Yankees would be extremely scared choosing him over other free agents because of his injury history (we all know the Yankees have not done so well with injuries the past few years) but I think if they can look past that and be confident in his rehabilitation, they might be willing to give him a contract to help them take the AL East Crown back from the Rays. This would be a great place for Kluber to go because he’d be able to work with Gerrit Cole and pitch for a team with real World Series hopes. Kluber seems to strive under pressure so maybe playing in the hardest place in baseball to perform would work well for Kluber.
The Padres seem to be all the way in on bringing in Bauer. I personally don’t think they have the money to pull it off unless he really takes a 1 year deal like he has said he wants to. If they do miss out on him, Kluber would certainly be a great option for the Friars. With the news that Clevinger is out for the season, they certainly will need help in the rotation if they want to be as good as they were in 2020. Kluber seems to fit the bill as a great 2 or 3 starter that would be perfect for San Diego. He would enter a rotation with Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and Zach Davies that could really use his help. The Padres are one of the most exciting teams in baseball and Kluber would help them completely change their culture from lovable losers to a team the Dodgers and Giants actually have to worry about. I think Kluber could go there for one year and eventually finish his career there as I think he fits the team very well and is a much cheaper option for San Diego compared to Bauer. Kluber would have the chance to team up with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado and try to help them bring the 2021 World Series Trophy to a city and fanbase who have been through so much and are really deserving of it. Kluber to the Friars could make a lot of sense for both sides.
Cleveland Indians (or Spiders, or Buckeyes)
Perhaps Corey wants a homecoming? Cleveland should have some extra money to work with after they trade Lindor, maybe they want to bring Kluber back? It is a weird fit because starting pitching is not their biggest hole by any means, in fact it may be their only strength. However, the pitching is what got them to the playoffs and bringing Kluber back would help them stay relevant and get back to the playoffs. Kluber was part of many winning Indians teams and a lot of the younger pitchers give him credit for teaching them how to be winners and how to work hard to ensure they achieve their goals. I’m sure the younger players he played with that are still there would be ecstatic to have him back. I feel like him being back in Cleveland would be great for him and his career and it would give him a great chance to work with the coaches who helped him get to where he is today. I don’t know if there is any bad blood between the two but nothing of the sorts has been reported and perhaps Kluber would like a clean slate and an opportunity to get Cleveland the World Series they left on the table in 2016.
The Mets are in a similar position to the Padres, as the plan for the offseason will not be fully known until Bauer is off the table. If Bauer does not end up in New York, the Mets will likely look to bring in at least one veteran pitcher to help bolster and add depth to their rotation. They seemed to be interested in bringing in Jake Odorizzi, but a lot of teams are in on him and he may be off the table sooner rather than later. Another name the Mets had talked to was Charlie Morton, but now he is with the Braves. What that shows, though,is that the Mets would be willing to take a slightly older veteran even if they had injury problems. Kluber would slot in next to the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard at some point, and then a bunch of different options. Bringing Kluber in would be great for this new Mets mentality as he is a winner and a competitor and would no doubt help the team win games. It’s only a weird fit because of the amount of options the Mets have. With David Peterson, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, as well as the dozens of other free agent or trade options, them bringing Kluber in could be a backup plan for them but one that could make sense for both sides.
I genuinely think Kluber could end up with upwards of 10 teams offering him, and I imagine his agent’s phone has been blowing up ever since free agency started, so I would not be shocked at all if my prediction is wrong or if someone is willing to give him a larger and longer contract based on his resume.
Prediciton: Kluber signs with the Padres for 1 year $15 million with a team option for year 2.
Thank you for reading along and hopefully your favorite team signs Kluber, because I have a feeling he’s still got one or two more elite seasons in the gas tank.