Well that moved fast!
Over the last few days, some relatively unexpected Corey Kluber rumors popped up with an extra dose of urgency, and today, the deal has reportedly gone down.
Kluber deal to Rangers is agreed to, pending physicals
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 15, 2019
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 15, 2019
According to multiple reports, the Texas Rangers have made a deal with the Indians for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, Kluber. The deal has a ton of implications, so let’s go down the line.
Let’s start simple: general competitiveness. Kluber may have missed nearly all of 2019, but when he’s on the field he’s one of the best starters in MLB. So to that end, the Rangers just got a whole lot better in the near-term. Speaking of the term, Kluber is under control for $17.5M in 2020 with a $18M club option in 2021. So the Rangers are getting two years of control over Kluber in the deal for a relatively good price. That’s a very solid pickup for them.
Which brings me to a very important second point: next steps. The Rangers have been heavily involved in the third base market, making a competitive offer for Anthony Rendon before he signed with the Angels, while being linked to Josh Donaldson in free agency and Kris Bryant in trade thereafter. The addition of Kluber leads me to believe they’ll be a whole lot more aggressive in their hunt for a third baseman … but which one? Well, they might tell you they’d take either – and they would! – but considering how seemingly small of a fit there was between the Cubs/Rangers before this trade (re: the Rangers lack of top-shelf, nearly ready prospects), I can’t imagine that got any easier today (see the return below – one young pitcher and
But that does makes the likelihood of Texas landing Josh Donaldson tick up. We know the Rangers have shown interest this month, but were stuck on not offering that fourth year Donaldson is seeking in any deal. And if the Rangers do end up getting Donaldson, the Nationals, Braves, Dodgers, and Twins will be left looking for an impact third baseman … which brings us to our favorite team.
While [Texas landing Donaldson] would be a good outcome for the Cubs (anyone but the Dodgers, Nationals, and Braves works in their favor), there’s one more wrinkle: are the Indians suddenly more likely to trade Francisco Lindor? And if so, wouldn’t all those Lindor-Dodgers rumors throw a wrench in things – as well as Lindor’s presence on the market? In a word: Yes.
For a while, the Indians were signaling their intention to keep Lindor until they determine whether or not they can win the AL Central. If the year started off poorly, they’d trade him at the deadline or next winter, when he’d still have another year of control. But after (1) seeing how much difficulty the Red Sox have had moving Mookie Betts (a superstar with one pricey year left of control) and (2) receiving interest from a prospect-rich team like the Dodgers, maybe the Indians pivoted to a more aggressive sell-off this year. And if Lindor is on the move, he presents a really attractive trade alternative to Bryant and could also take the Dodgers out of the bidding, which you wouldn’t like to see. Yes, the Braves and Nationals could put together really competitive offers for Bryant, but you absolutely want the Dodgers in on that bidding, if it happens. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
We’ll get into more later, if anything else comes of it.
UPDATE: The return … (note: these are not going to be the only two names going back, more is expected):
OF Delino DeShields Jr. and RHP Emmanuel Clase heading to #Indians for Kluber, source tells The Athletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2019
Emmanuel Clase, 21, is a righty who made his big league debut this season with pretty great results out of the pen: 23.1 IP, 2.31 ERA, 3.43 FIP. He was one of the Rangers top-30 prospects before this season, but as a reliever, was nearer the back of those lists than the front. He’s an interesting, possibly very useful and cost-controlled arm, but not much of a threat to join the rotation. He does apparently have a 101 MPH cutter, though, so that’s cool.
Those are not going to be the only two names in this trade, but for Indians fans reading this: Emmanuel Clase throws a 101mph *cutter*. Wrote a bit about him here: https://t.co/550HaBc2ha
— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) December 15, 2019
Could he have been involved in a Kris Bryant trade? Yeah, absolutely, but it would have been in a complementary role.
DeShields Jr., 27, was once a highly touted prospect, but that was a long time ago. After five seasons in the big leagues, he is now a glove-first center fielder with very limited offensive impact but plenty to offer on the defensive end. You might think that sounds like a theoretical Cubs target – they do need a good CF glove – but he actually strikes out quite a bit and, again, offers very little with the bat overall, so eh.
Ultimately, the Rangers ability to trade for Kris Bryant might not have been as impacted as we once thought, but it was already quite low to begin with and Clase would have been a very nice piece. They’re willingness to improve this offseason, however, is well-documented:
#Rangers have done 3 yrs, $28M for Gibson. 2 yrs, $16M for Lyle. Now Kluber is due $17.5M with a $1M trade kicker and an $18M option for 2021. No public word yet if #Indians are including $ for better prospects.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 15, 2019
I’d just be surprised if they didn’t somehow end up with a new third baseman, either in free agency (Donaldson) or trade (Bryant, Miguel Andujar? Kyle Seager?).
UPDATE II: Another thought: This move almost certainly takes the Rangers out of the running for one of the remaining free-agent starters (Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu). Their rotation is six-deep:
- Corey Kluber
- Mike Minor
- Lance Lynn
- Kyle Gibson
- Jordan Lyles
- Kolby Allard