Attendance is one of those bare minimum precursor situations, but at least it is present.
Per Sahadev Sharma, the Chicago Cubs will indeed be among the many teams checking out free agent righty Corey Kluber’s workout today. The 34-year-old former ace is trying to show teams that, after losing most of the last two years to injuries, he’s proceeding through a normal offseason process in anticipation of being good to go for 2021.
We’ve talked a lot about Kluber already as a fit for the Cubs, at least in terms of what he represents: an opportunity meeting an opportunity. The Cubs, as we know, are not going to spend aggressively this year, but they do want to compete in a crumbumble NL Central, and they do have SO MANY innings available in their rotation. A bounce-back candidate like Kluber makes a great deal of sense for the Cubs, whether by helping them repeat as NL Central champions this year on the relative cheap (while otherwise rebooting), or by helping them have another trade chip at midseason. Ah, the old, sign-and-flip days. Remember those?
If you’re Kluber, though, you’re probably going to prefer to wind up somewhere that is going to be competitive and is unlikely to “flip” you. But, then, what’s the team out there that is an obvious contender, won’t flip you, and has SO MANY innings clearly available in the rotation for you? I’d argue that there aren’t that many teams out there that fit the bill on both sides of the opportunity equation, and I’m thinking if the Cubs get involved on Kluber, they’ll probably make at least some sense to him (to say nothing of their ability in recent years to effectively woo lower-cost free agents by virtue of the city, the amenities, the way the organization takes care of families, etc.).
But *will* the Cubs get really involved on Kluber? Well, I don’t think anyone can answer before today. He’s gotta show how he’s looking, and then the market will develop a bit. Upwards of 20 teams are going to be present to get a look at the former Cy Young winner, and, even at 34 coming off of multiple injured seasons, a healthy Kluber is going to draw a lot of interest. The guy was excellent as recently as 2018 before the injuries set in, though the injuries can’t be ignored at his age – a fluke fractured arm on a comebacker in early 2019, an abdominal injury while rehabbing the arm injury in mid-2019, and then a muscle strain at the back of his shoulder after just one inning of work in 2020.
For his part, Kluber feels good and feels right where he should be at this point in a normal offseason:
Kluber out to show he's healthy after 2 lost years https://t.co/9zmfYDmix1
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) January 12, 2021
Now we await word on how he looks today, and which teams follow up with interest. Oh, and at what level: if Kluber looks fantastic, then it’s not inconceivable that some team will go over the top on its offer to get a shot at having a resurgent Kluber in their rotation. Just because he’s been injured, you can’t necessarily assume he will definitely get a tiny deal (and that might be all the Cubs are looking for at the moment).
UPDATE: If this is accurate and not just agent-speak, then you can figure the price tag on Kluber – because of the upside – is probably going to go outside the bounds of a super-cheap signing:
Nearly 25 teams showed up at Corey Kluber's showcase today, and scouts came away impressed. His fastball sat 88-90 — and he's got more velocity in the tank as he builds toward spring training. Kluber threw 30 pitches, including all of his off-speed stuff. Strong market expected.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 13, 2021
I do see the Cubs adding multiple starting pitchers from here, but, given the expectations for 2021 and the very deep starting free agent pool (in the middle-to-lower tier), I do not see the Cubs spending considerably on any one guy.