7:03pm: The San Diego organization has held some talks regarding Kluber as well as Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Twitter). But while “the Padres could still add a starting pitcher for 2019,” he says, “it won’t be one of those two.”
Needless to say, that’s a rather forthright rebuke of the earlier reporting this evening, which had characterized the Padres as active and strong pursuers of Kluber.
3:59pm: The Padres are among the teams discussing a trade for two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber with the Indians, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Morosi further tweets that several other NL clubs — the Dodgers, Reds, Phillies and Brewers — are also involved in Kluber talks to varying degrees. San Diego, he notes, is not believed to be any sort of favorite at the moment.
However, the Padres do have a number of interesting young, MLB-ready pieces to include in a potential Kluber deal. Any of center fielder Manuel Margot, right fielder Hunter Renfroe or catcher Austin Hedges could potentially be involved in a Kluber swap, per Morosi, although it’s difficult to see how any of that trio would headline a package for for a pitcher as accomplished as Kluber.
Margot and Hedges are quality defenders, though neither has hit in the Majors yet and both have already topped two years of big league service (meaning they have four years of control remaining). Renfroe has demonstrated significant power and is controlled for another five seasons but walked at just a 6.8 percent clip last season and barely kept his on-base percentage north of .300. Furthermore, Morosi suggests that the Padres would be reluctant to include either of their top two prospects — shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and lefty MacKenzie Gore — in a trade. Presumably, then, San Diego would need to include additional MLB-ready talent and deal from its next tier of prospects in order to make the best offer for Kluber, who can be controlled for another three seasons at a total of $52.5MM (with the final two of those seasons coming in the form of club options).
Kluber, of course, was originally a Padres farmhand after being selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. The Padres, under a previous regime and not the current A.J. Preller-led front office, shipped Kluber to Cleveland in a three-team swap that sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis and Ryan Ludwick to San Diego. Kluber, at the time, wasn’t even considered a top prospect but nonetheless flourished in his new environs, blossoming into a bona fide ace and one of the very best pitchers of the past decade.
The Indians have won three straight division championships and made a World Series appearance along the way, but they’ve seen their payroll inflate to levels that are beyond ownership’s comfort threshold along the way. President of baseball ops Chris Antonetti, GM Mike Chernoff and the rest of the staff have already cut payroll by trading Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and Yan Gomes, though the Indians also took back Carlos Santana in that Encarnacion trade, which lessened the overall financial relief they received in that trio of trades. It’s not clear whether ownership has given a mandate to further reduce payroll, but it’s evident that Antonetti, Chernoff & Co. at the very least remain open to moving a top-tier starter in an effort to add multiple, controllable and affordable pieces to the big league roster.