The Indians’ top three starters have seen their names hit the rumor mill this winter, and MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writes that the Dodgers are among the teams who’ve discussed various trade concepts with Cleveland in the past few days. Specifically, one iteration involves both Corey Kluber and Yasiel Puig, per Morosi, though it’s clear that there are still some gaps to be filled in with regard to that specific package, as there’s no logical scenario in which Puig is any sort of centerpiece to a Kluber trade.
In fact, while the Indians have obvious outfield needs, it’s difficult to see a player as expensive as Puig being a prime target to fill that need. The reported willingness to listen to offers on Kluber and others seemed to stem from a desire to create payroll flexibility and add controllable young talent. Puig checks neither of those boxes and is a clear downgrade from Kluber in terms of overall value. While Kluber will earn $17MM next season, Puig is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $11.3MM himself. Shedding a mere $6MM or so in payroll wouldn’t be of that much benefit to Cleveland unless the Dodgers were to add significant pre-arbitration talent and/or take on some additional money in return.
Morosi writes that the Dodgers would likely be willing to part with lefty Alex Wood and pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez, but that pairing, again, presents issues. Namely, Wood is projected to earn $9MM in arbitration and, like Puig, is a free agent next winter. He’d be a fine one-year replacement for Kluber, but it’s the idea of moving Kluber to acquire a pair of expensive veterans who have just one season of team control remaining isn’t logical on its surface, unless there are other moving parts at play.
Alvarez, meanwhile, was touted as a mega-prospect when he signed for $16MM out of Cuba (plus a matching $16MM luxury tax penalty), but he’s yet to top 100 innings in any of his three seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league ranks. Beyond that, the 2018 campaign was far and away his worst since signing; in 48 1/3 innings at the Double-A level, Alvarez posted a 4.66 ERA with 52 strikeouts against an alarming total of 43 walks. There’s still ample time for the 22-year-old to realize his potential, but he’s not the type of young player who’d headline a package for one of the game’s elite pitchers.
The Dodgers do have the type of young talent that Cleveland would covet in any deal involving Kluber, of course, and it seems likely that any talks centering around him, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer have involved several names. But a deal including any of Puig, Wood or Alvarez would require the addition of some prominent young, controllable players in order to sufficiently pique Cleveland’s interest. Furthermore, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Cleveland adds the salary requirements that would come with both Puig and Wood in the same deal without some additional financial considerations coming into play.