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Corey Kluber Rumors
Over the past week, we’ve seen multi-year deals signed by Yordano Ventura (five years, $23MM), Carlos Carrasco (four years, $22MM), Corey Kluber (five years, $38.5MM) and Rick Porcello (four years, $82.5MM). As usual, there’s been no shortage of reactions to these contracts, and here are a few reactions/opinions from around the baseball world to each of the deals…
- Signing Ventura to a five-year deal was a necessary risk for the Royals, opines Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards. Ventura has long been seen as a risky commodity due to his smaller stature and a fear that he may be bullpen-bound, and he also produced results that were more good than great in 2014. However, only three Royals starters — Zack Greinke, James Shields and Ervin Santana –have matched Ventura’s modest 2.4 fWAR over the past five seasons. The Royals’ rotation is typically occupied by journeymen starters, and the upside for a mid-rotation or front-line starter at that price makes the risk worth taking, writes Edwards, even if there’s a risk he may not hold up as a starter.
- The Carrasco and Kluber extensions appear to be the latest in a long line of contracts signed with the intent of developing a long-term core. As GM Chris Antonetti said recently on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link): “This nucleus is going to be in place for awhile. Ownership has given us incredible resources.”
- Mutually beneficial extensions have been a key component of successful Indians’ seasons since John Hart began pioneering them in the 1990s, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian spoke to other members of that growing core — Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes — each of whom has signed extensions of their own in the past year-plus. The Cleveland core expressed excitement about being able to grow and express excitement together in the coming years as they enter their primes.
- Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel looks at the financial implications of the latest pair of Indians extensions, and he also spoke with Antonetti about the decision to offer Carrasco a long-term deal based on a relatively small sample of success. “His mix of pitches has always been a strength from the time we acquired him,” said Antonetti. “But we’ve seen the continued development and maturity and improvement in his routines, his consistency and his focus and we saw it translate to his success as a starting pitcher last year. We believe that now, not only does he have the physical attributes, but the other attributes to be a successful starter.”
- Carrasco’s deal may appear team-friendly, but an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery and a newborn baby played a role in Carrasco’s decision to accept the contract, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and FOX Sports writes that Porcello’s age-23 through age-25 seasons mirror those of Justin Masterson, and Masterson experienced a breakout in his age-26 season — the same that Porcello is currently entering. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee a breakout for Porcello, Cameron notes that the Sox are betting on a breakout or step forward of sorts — one that would’ve launched Porcello’s free agent price considerably beyond the $82.5MM figure upon which he agreed. Judging contracts based on average annual value is all too common a mistake, Cameron notes, as the years accompanying that AAV are a critical factor of any deal. Boston is showing a tendency to pay a premium to keep contracts short in an effort to avoid rostering expensive non-performers down the line, with Porcello’s deal and the Hanley Ramirez contract serving as recent examples, he adds.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers a similar take, using CC Sabathia as an example of the dangers of signing a pitcher into their 30s. As Britton notes, Sabathia would’ve been one of the best free agent signings in history had the Yankees let him walk after he exercised an opt out clause following the third season of his initial contract. However, they re-signed him through age-36, and Sabathia’s contract has become an albatross on the Yankees. While Porcello isn’t as good as prime Sabathia and likely never will be — a fact Britton acknowledges — his situation still aids the argument that it’s better to pay a premium for a pitcher in his prime than commit exorbitant amounts of money to their decline years.
- I’ll echo my thoughts on the Porcello deal that I tweeted out and included in MLBTR’s write-up of his extension and agree with both Cameron and Britton. While Porcello is not now and may never be a front-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox clearly believe that he’s capable of taking a step forward from a career year in 2014, and they’re willing to pay what currently seems to be an above-market annual price in order to secure his prime. It’s commonplace for teams to sign older free agents knowing that the final year or two (and sometimes more) will likely be a sunk cost, and yet as observers we accept that as part of free agency. The Red Sox are taking an opposite approach, seemingly making a strong bet that Porcello’s best years are ahead. Paying for an expected outcome that has yet to take place is risky, to be sure, but it’s no riskier than guaranteeing a pitcher north of $20MM in his age-36 season, as we saw with James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. The notion that a player must first “prove” that he is worth upper-market dollars over a long-term implicitly requires that those upper-market dollars will be awarded after or at the tail end of his peak, thereby negating much of the logic in committing such a sizable sum. Whether or not the Porcello deal ultimately looks wise or turns into an albatross, the thinking behind the deal is sound: make projections based on scouting and analytic input, and invest. The alternative — wait and see, then pay for the downswing of a player’s career — is hardly a less risky approach.
In negotiations for his recent extension, Corey Kluber was forthright about wanting to continue to pitch for the Indians, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes (on Twitter). “Corey was really upfront,” says GM Chris Antonetti. “He said, ‘This is where I want to be. I want to be in Cleveland for a long time. Ideally, I’d like it to be a lifetime contract.‘” Here are more notes on extensions.
- The Orioles will not extend Chris Tillman before Opening Day despite recent discussions between the two sides, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. As of late last week, it did not appear that the two sides were close, and Tillman does not want to continue extension discussions once the season begins. He has three more years before he’s eligible for free agency, however, so it’s not impossible the two sides could negotiate again next offseason.
- The Reds have discussed a new contract with Johnny Cueto recently, but the two sides are unlikely to strike a deal before the season begins, Heyman writes. It’s looking extremely likely that Cueto will hit the free agent market next winter. Heyman also notes that the Reds have not pursued extension talks with Mike Leake.
- Another free-agent-to-be, Rick Porcello of the Red Sox, reiterates that he will not discuss an extension during the season, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. “I don’t want any distractions when we start the season,” says Porcello. The two sides did have at least some dialogue in March regarding a possible deal, Bradford writes.
- A Mets representative says Lucas Duda and the team have not discontinued their contract talks, Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. A previous report had indicated that the two sides had stopped talking as Opening Day approached. The two sides have reportedly discussed an extension in recent weeks.
The Indians have announced signing reigning CY Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a five-year contract, which runs through the 2019 season and contains club options for 2020 and 2021. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets Kluber’s guaranteed five-year portion is worth $38.5MM while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the contract, plus its unique escalators and trade language, is the largest guarantee ever for a pre-arbitration pitcher. Kluber is represented by B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management.
“This is an exciting day for our organization, Corey and his family,” said Indians GM Chris Antonetti. “In his time with us, Corey has grown into a leader in our clubhouse and an exemplary teammate. His tireless work ethic, consistent preparation and fierce competitiveness set an example for our younger players, and his presence on our team is a key reason that we are prepared to compete for a championship in 2015 and beyond.”
Kluber can earn $77MM across the life of the deal if all escalators, which are based on where he finishes in the Cy Young race, are met, according to Rosenthal (Twitter links). Starting in 2015, Kluber will earn salaries of $1MM, $4.5MM, $7.5MM, $10.5MM, and $13MM. His fifth year can go from $13MM to $17MM with escalators (link). The 2020 option will be worth $13.5MM and can go to $17.5MM with escalators. In 2021, the option will be worth $14MM and can be as large as $18MM with escalators. That second option can be instead bought out for $1MM.
If traded, Kluber’s new club will have to decide on the 2020 and 2021 options within three days after the 2019 World Series. If the new club declines that option, Kluber must be given a $1MM buyout (link). He’ll also receive a $1MM bonus if traded and his 2021 club option will convert to a vesting option if he is traded in 2020 (link). The vesting option would call for him to pitch 160 innings and not finish the year on the DL, according to Rosenthal.
Kluber is coming off a Cy Young season in which he posted 18 wins, a 2.44 ERA, 10.27 K/9, and 1.95 BB/9 in 235 innings. As a Super Two player, he would have been eligible for arbitration from 2016 through 2019 and, with a similar performance to last season, would have been in store for strong earnings via arbitration. As such, he was in a position to earn more than Yordano Ventura netted from his similar extension.
The advanced metrics were also quite fond of Kluber in 2014. The right-hander pitched to a 2.57 xFIP, a figure that’s more or less in line with his 2.44 ERA on the season. That figure put him only second to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who pitched to an eye popping 2.08 xFIP last year.
Last week, Antonetti explained the team had “a clear preference” to conclude any contract talks before Opening Day in order to “minimize distractions” for the players. For a while, it seemed like an extension wouldn’t come together at all prior to the start of the 2015 season. Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, Antonetti and Abbott had a face-to-face meeting last month, but it seemed like the two sides were at an impasse due to the pitcher’s unique situation.
Kluber, who turns 29 on April 10th (the date of Cleveland’s home opener), was still under the Tribe’s control for four more seasons. While he ostensibly wanted some financial security ahead of free agency going into his age-33 season, the Indians weren’t necessarily under the gun to give him a long-term pact. Ultimately, the two sides appear to have found some middle ground: Kluber gets his security and the Indians gain cost certainty at a reasonable price.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the two sides were nearing agreement on a long-term deal and it could be finalized before Opening Day (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports first tweeted the length of the deal while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted a deal had been reached pending a physical. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti declined to comment on the Corey Kluber negotiations with reporters (including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian) today, though he reiterated that the team has “a clear preference” to conclude any contract talks before Opening Day in order to “minimize distractions” for the players. The chances of an extension before Opening Day “are said to be less than great” according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, though FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that “some progress” had been made between the two sides.
Here are some more items from around the baseball world…
- The Tigers are thought to be more eager to keep David Price on a long-term extension than they were Max Scherzer last year since Price has a better track record of durability, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Still, three sources tell Heyman that the two sides aren’t close to an agreement that would keep Price in Detroit beyond this season.
- Reliever Mike Adams will not report to Triple-A as planned and has left the Dodgers, Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register reports (Twitter link). Moura suggests that Adams may be on the verge of retirement. After struggling through two injury-plagued seasons, Adams signed a minor league deal with Los Angeles last month.
- Hector Olivera and Jose Millan Fernandez, the Dodgers‘ two recent high-profile Cuban signings, are still awaiting visas and have yet to come to the United States, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes.
- Jon Singleton faced some criticism from fellow players for signing a five-year, $10MM extension (with three club option years) with the Astros before ever appearing in a Major League game. Given the slow start to Singleton’s career, however, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards believes Singleton’s decision is looking better and better. Singleton struggled through his rookie season and will begin 2015 in the minors, yet had he not signed that extension, he would only have earned roughly $540K instead of the $3.5MM he’s guaranteed in 2014-15. There’s also still plenty of time for Singleton to develop into a quality big leaguer and for this deal to become a bargain for Houston.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels and new manager Jeff Banister talk to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News about what went into Banister’s hiring and how the Rangers view the modern relationship between the front office and the clubhouse.
Condolences go out to the family and friends of Twins Minor League instructor/manager Riccardo Ingram, who as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes, lost a battle with brain cancer yesterday at the age of 48. Ingram spent 17 seasons in the Twins organization as a manager, coach and roving hitting instructor. “It’s very sad news,” said GM Terry Ryan. “…He’s one of those guys where it would be very difficult for me to find somebody who had a bad thing to say about Riccardo Ingram.” Originally diagnosed in 2009, Ingram overcame his first bout with the disease and returned to his post with the Twins through the 2014 season. Said manager Paul Molitor: “I think we were all blessed we were able to get those five or six years with him after the original diagnosis. But it’s not easy.”
Here are a few more items from around the AL Central…
- There’s been “some progress” between the Indians and ace Corey Kluber on an extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), but it remains unclear whether or not the team will strike a deal by the reported Opening Day deadline. Kluber is not yet arbitration-eligible, but a repeat of anything close to his 2014 Cy Young season would make his first price tag in arb enormous, so there’s some benefit for Cleveland to seek cost certainty at this juncture despite the fact that Kluber is a late bloomer and thus older than most extension candidates.
- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander will open the season on the disabled list due a right triceps strain, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Incredibly, this will mark the first DL stint of Verlander’s exceptional career. Though the injury is not considered serious, it’s an ominous start for the former ace after he led the AL in earned runs allowed in 2014 and struggled to a 5.63 ERA (10 runs in 16 innings) this spring. He’s tentatively slated to come off the DL on April 12.
- Also opening the season on the DL will be flamethrowing righty Bruce Rondon, who is experiencing biceps tendinitis. The injury appears to be unrelated to last year’s Tommy John surgery, but Rondon didn’t throw back-to-back days all spring and won’t be activated until he is able to do so. Manager Brad Ausmus said he doesn’t know when Rondon will throw again, via Iott. The Tigers already have a precariously thin bullpen, and the loss of Rondon for any significant chunk of time would further cloud the outlook.
- The Twins are “kicking the tires” on right-hander Dustin McGowan, who was recently released by the Dodgers, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Via Wolfson, the Twins had interest in McGowan back in November, but their interest faded later in the offseason as he remained unsigned. Perhaps disappointing Spring Training efforts from some internal bullpen candidates have rekindled some of that interest. McGowan recorded an uninspiring 4.17 ERA in 82 innings (eight starts, 45 relief appearances) with Toronto last season, but he was much better out of the ‘pen than in the rotation, as he has been throughout his career. McGowan’s 3.79 ERA as a reliever is nearly a full run lower than his 4.78 mark as a starter, though xFIP feels he’s about the same pitcher in either role (4.30 vs. 4.32).
“Overall, baseball has never been as big or as profitable” as it is now, Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes in the magazine’s annual valuation of MLB franchises. The average value of a Major League team is $1.2 billion, a massive increase from Forbes’ last calculation (of $811MM) just a year ago. Fifteen teams were valued at least a billion dollars, with the Yankees leading the way at $3.2 billion. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Despite the Yankees‘ incredible value, Hal Steinbrenner said the team is not for sale in an ESPN radio interview with Michael Kay and Don LaGreca (hat tip to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News). Selling the club is “not enticing in any way shape or form,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s a family business. Many of us are involved from the family and we know this is what our dad would want, to carry on the tradition.”
- Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez is drawing “serious interest” from the Nationals, The Washington Post’s James Wagner writes. “The Nationals like Alvarez’s frame and stuff,” Wagner notes about the 18-year-old Alvarez, who is listed at 6’3″ and 175 pounds. The Nats and Diamondbacks were cited as the top contenders for Alvarez by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez last month, and if Alvarez will indeed be ineligible to sign until July 2, that will eliminate the D’Backs from contention due to penalties for going over slot in this signing period to land Yoan Lopez. Even if Arizona is out of the running, however, the Nats will still have to bid against several other interested teams for Alvarez’s services.
- The MLBPA has been encouraging players to look for other means of achieving guaranteed financial security rather than accept below-market extensions, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. One of those means is taking out a “loss-of-value” insurance policy to protect against injury (Max Scherzer took out such a policy last season) and Rosenthal suggests that Corey Kluber could explore doing the same this year to gain some leverage in contract talks with the Indians. Kluber could cash in by signing an extension now, but waiting even one season to get into his arbitration-eligible years would greatly increase the value of a multi-year deal, Rosenthal argues. With the loss-of-value policy backing him up, Kluber would have fewer worries about getting hurt this season and missing out on a chance at a big contract.
- Brady Aiken‘s Tommy John surgery will lower his draft stock and potentially make him a risk for teams picking near the top of the first round, though Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the Red Sox could take a chance on Aiken with the seventh overall pick. The addition of a first-round caliber talent in Yoan Moncada and an overall deep minor league system gives Boston the luxury to take a risk on Aiken and hopes that, if he recovers, they’ll have fallen into a future ace.
- Jake Fox is trying to land a regular minor league job with the Blue Jays, and the veteran talks to Sportsnet.com’s Arden Zwelling about some of the ups and downs of being a baseball journeyman.
Let’s have a look at some notes out of Indians camp:
- While extension negotiations between the Indians and Corey Kluber have been friendly, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that it is a high-risk situation for both sides. For the team, the appeal of cost certainty (and, potentially, extended team control) is obvious, but guaranteeing money for the soon-to-be 29-year-old does have downside. And for Kluber, as agent B.B. Abbott notes, there is a balance to be struck between achieving fair value and locking up some security as an older pre-arb player. “If he considers this, he is doing it with his eyes wide open,” said Abbott. “He knows this will be the only time to sign this kind of multi-year deal.”
- The Indians have informed veteran pitchers Bruce Chen, Shaun Marcum, and Scott Downs that all three will not be on the Opening Day roster out of camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. All three are in camp on minor league deals. Of that group, only Downs is an Article XX(B) free agent, meaning that he will need to be offered a $100K retention bonus if the club wishes to retain his rights in the minors. Both Chen and Marcum have out clauses in their deals permitting them to return to the open market rather than going to Triple-A, Hoynes reports.
- Another player still battling for a roster spot, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, helped his cause with a mammoth home run yesterday, as Hoynes reports. While the quality production out of his right-handed bat this spring has increased his appeal to Cleveland, Sands is still not far removed from surgery on his tendon sheath and can be controlled through an assignment in the minors to start the year. “I don’t know if Sands fits yet,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “But you have to believe that a guy that can do what he does at some point is going to help us. Is it opening day, we don’t know yet. But we’re glad he’s here.”
The Indians and right-hander Corey Kluber are “not close” to an agreement on an extension, sources tell CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. The two sides have been discussing a multi-year deal over the last several weeks, including a recent face-to-face meeting between Cleveland owner Paul Dolan, president Mark Shapiro, GM Chris Antonetti and Kluber’s agent B.B. Abbott. Neither party commented on the talks except for Abbott, who only said that “The lines of communication between myself and the Indians are and will continue to be open.”
It perhaps isn’t surprising that the extension is taking some time to work out given Kluber’s unique situation, which Heyman describes (MLBTR’s Jeff Todd also examined Kluber as an Extension Candidate last August. Kluber turns 29 in April and is still under team control for four more seasons, so there could be a bit of urgency on his part to score a big-money deal now rather than wait for free agency going into his age-33 season. From the Tribe’s perspective, gaining cost certainty at least through Kluber’s arbitration years would be of interest to the low-payroll club, though having found a Cy Young Award-winning ace at a bargain price, Cleveland might not want to pay too much more than necessary.
Kluber’s 2015 salary is already technically set, as the two sides settled on a $610K contract for the coming season. This represents a decent-sized bump over the league minimum salary, and given how most teams deal with pre-arbitration contracts, the raise could be a good faith move from the Indians as a harbinger of a richer extension. If an extension is reached, I’d imagine that Kluber’s $610K salary would be replaced by a new figure or he’d at least receive a signing bonus to get more money in his pocket immediately.
Most elbow issues that lead to Tommy John surgery appear to crop up in March, according to a review conducted by Ben Lindbergh of Grantland. That is the time that pitchers ramp up each spring, of course, and Lindbergh finds that other pitching injuries also trend northwards toward the end of the year’s third month. You’ll want to read the entire piece for details and thoughts on why this seems to be the case.
Here are some more stray notes from around the game:
- Ace righty Corey Kluber and the Indians will continue talking about a new contract after recent in-person negotiations failed to result in a deal, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Those talks ended Thursday, says Hoynes, but it appears that there is enough mutual interest to keep a dialogue open.
- The first outing for former Astros number one overall draft pick Brady Aiken at IMG Academy ended with concern, as John Manuel and Josh Norris of Baseball America report. Aiken had worked in the low-90s with his fastball, but left in the middle of the first inning after throwing a curveball. That pitch was clocked at about 7 mph lower than a prior hook thrown by the young lefty. One of the umpires tells BA that he overheard mention that the well-regarded amateur felt “a little bit of tightness.” Needless to say, it is still far too early to speculate on Aiken’s status, though it is worth noting that there has been chatter that he has not been fully healthy this winter. Per BA, scouts from every team but Houston were on hand to see watch Aiken, who figures to be one of the best prospects available again in this year’s draft.
- MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said today that the subject of player rights being dealt for executives could be an issue to be addressed in the next CBA, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. It is not clear what kinds of issues might be contemplated, but Clark said that the seemingly increasing prevalence of that sort of transaction — highlighted, most recently, by the apparent negotiations between the Orioles and Blue Jays regarding Dan Duquette — make it something that the league and union will “talk through … and see what may make some sense here going forward.”
TODAY: Kluber will earn $601K on his 2015 contract, according to the Associated Press (passed on by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer).
YESTERDAY, 6:08pm: The Indians announced that Kluber has agreed to a contract for the 2015 season (on Twitter). While this indicates that no extension has been agreed to at this time, it certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that a long-term deal could be reached prior to the beginning of the regular season.
9:02am: Top starter Corey Kluber is the Indians‘ only unsigned player, and Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that both the club and Kluber’s agents at Jet Sports Management are holding open the possibility of reaching agreement on a multi-year deal. Talks on a broader agreement could go past today’s deadline, per the report, though they seem unlikely to continue into the season.
Today is the deadline for club and player to settle on Kluber’s 2015 contract. If they cannot, Cleveland can renew him at any amount at or above league minimum. (Click here for an explanation of that process.)
As Hoynes notes, this spring might represent the most likely point for the sides to find common ground. Soon to turn 29, Kluber — the American League’s reigning Cy Young winner — will not reach arbitration eligibility until next season. When he does, he will not only obtain significant financial security but will also be within spitting distance of free agency. From the perspective of the Indians — an organization that has tended not to give out long-term pitching deals — promising money into Kluber’s thirties may only have appeal if the team can achieve a relative bargain.
I discussed Kluber’s extension candidacy last August. His bargaining position has certainly improved with the Cy Young under his belt, though that does not necessarily mean that a deal is more likely. My own guess is that the most likely scenario may be one in which the sides agree to a relatively short-term extension buying out some of Kluber’s arbitration seasons but not touching his free agency, thus providing him with some security in exchange for providing cost control to the club.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Kluber’s recent appearance on the MLBTR Podcast. Among other things, Kluber discusses his consistent preparation routine and ability to maintain his production after a big innings jump last season.