Trade Target: Corey Kluber

The Backstory:

Despite winning 106 games, the front office should be working hard this offseason to improve a team that fell short in the NLDS to the Washington Nationals. The Nationals did go on to win the World Series due in large part to effective timely hitting and 3 All-Star caliber starters in their rotation. Despite the Dodgers struggles on offense in the postseason once again, one of the largest demands from fans is pitching, pitching, pitching. The logical thing to do is let Ryu walk and offer Hill nothing more than a team friendly deal and diminished role. Urias, May, and Gonsolin are all expected to have big contributions in the 2020 rotation but to expect 180 innings from any of them in the regular season is unlikely. The goal is to win a World Series, and we want these guys pitching at their best in October. If the Nationals and Astros taught us anything, it’s that you need multiple stars in your rotation, which the Dodgers lack. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are the popular names in free agency but is paying either one of these guys close to $35 million a year for the next 6 seasons the right thing to do? That’s a lot of money invested towards pitchers that may have reached their peak in 2019. An alternative is to go back to the well and resume negotiations that fell short during the 2018 Winter Meetings. The Dodgers were linked to Kluber, while the Indians wanted Verdugo in return. Dodgers made the right call by not giving into the Indian’s demands. Now the Dodgers have been reported to show interest in the Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, but the Dodgers should actually be calling about right handed pitcher Corey Kluber, who’s trade value might not be this low again.

The Reality:

Kluber will be turning age 34 when the 2020 season is just getting started but that shouldn’t be a concern. In 2019, Kluber’s fastball ranged from 90-92 MPH, which is a decline from 92-94 MPH speed he was throwing in 2018. Kluber got off to a 2-3 start with a 5.80 ERA over 35.2 innings, which was a bit unusual. A line drive baseball off the bat fractured Kluber’s arm, which knocked Kluber out for most of the season and then a strained oblique interrupted his rehab outing thus ending his season. The extended time off should actually be beneficial for Kluber. ESPN reports that Kluber will be ready for the start of Spring Training. This is a guy who threw over 200 innings for 5 consecutive seasons. Kluber is a 2 time Cy Young award winner and made 3 All-Star teams. He led the AL with a 202 ERA+ in 2017, was a 20 game winner in 2018 with a 2.89 ERA and 222 strike outs. Kluber is near the end of his contract. In 2020, Kluber will be making $17.5 million with a club option for 2021, which helps the Dodgers by not being locked into a long-term deal.

The Reward:

In 45.1 postseason innings Kluber has a 3.97 ERA, which is above what you’d see in the regular season, but I’m willing to overlook that because in 2016 Kluber had a 1.85 ERA throughout the Indians World Series run where they came up 1 game short. Kluber made 1 start against Boston, 2 against Toronto, and 3 against the Cubs. The reality is Clayton Kershaw cannot be the #2 guy in a postseason rotation anymore. Roberts made that critical mistake in 2019, so by putting together a rotation of Buehler, Kluber, Kershaw, Urias, and May/Gonsolin I would say the Dodgers are set. Even by trading Trevor Bauer to the Reds, the Indians are looking to shed more salary and have an abundance of starting pitching. Jefry Rodriguez, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Adam Plutko, Logan Allen, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are all plausible rotation arms for their staff.

The Shot:

Kluber almost feels like a forgotten name but he has the makeup and pitch arsenal to be the perfect complementary piece to the Dodgers new ace Walker Buehler. Kluber can throw 5 different pitches: four-seam fastball, a sinker with a two-seam fastball grip, a cutter, a curve ball, and a changeup. The Dodgers were ranked once again as one of the top farm systems in baseball, so they have the talent to spare. Joc Pederson is definitely a piece that could be moved along with Edwin Rios and or/ one of their catchers in the farm system not named Ruiz.

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(photo credit: Getty Images)