6:51 pm: The Angels can be counted out on Kluber at this point, per Rosenthal (link).
6:31 pm: The Dodgers are still “more focused” on Lindor in talks with the Indians, per Heyman (link).
6:11 pm: Dallas Morning News writer Evan Grant cites sources in confirming that the Rangers are actively engaged on Kluber, noting the shift in direction a Kluber acquisition would represent after recent indications from GM Jon Daniels that the team would not consider one-year “rentals” (link).
5:48pm: Corey Kluber has made for one of the hardest-to-pin trade candidates of the offseason, with the 33-year-old Indians hurler coming off an injury-wrecked 2019 that saw him perform in just seven games, and poorly. However, it seems like a fair number of teams are confident in an immediate return to form, with baseball journalist Robert Murray relaying that the Kluber market is “heating up”. Murray names the Angels and Padres as two parties that have recently checked in. Jon Heyman of the MLB Network corroborates this report by saying that Kluber’s market is “very active” with multiple teams in play, including the Dodgers. Heyman characterizes Kluber as “much more likely” to get dealt than shortstop Francisco Lindor. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes that the Rangers are “in the mix“.
With free-agent pitching valuations rising like Silicon Valley IPOs, it’s easy to understand why more than one team might start looking to the trade front to find a frontline starter–even if that pitcher comes with some age or injury concerns. The Padres, for one, have been connected to virtually every top-flight starter made available in trades in recent years, from Marcus Stroman to Noah Syndergaard to David Price. GM AJ Preller and his group are yet to pull the trigger on anything substantive in the pitching department, and the signal has long been that the club would refrain from any major splash spending this offseason. It’s easy to see how Klubot might fit well atop their rotation. The pitcher’s return to his drafting organization would position him with Garrett Richards, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet in a physically imposing top four.
For the Angels, a Kluber courtship may similarly be about their choice to allocate resources toward Anthony Rendon, rather than Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole. We heard this week that the team was in active discussions on Kluber. Hard to see a fit here? Not exactly. The Angels have struggled mightily in the pitching department in recent years, with 2019 mid-priced free agent gambles like Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill rolling snake eyes in the season’s early months. The passing of Tyler Skaggs, injuries to Shohei Ohtani, and a lack of impact talent at the top of the system has limited the effectiveness of the Anaheim staff in the last calendar year. Of course, Kluber himself couldn’t be positioned as a long-term answer: he’ll earn $17.5MM in 2020, after which he has an $18MM club option with a $1MM buyout for 2021. At the least, though, he would partner with Dylan Bundy in a pairing of perfectly reasonable 2020 pitching additions.
It’s also no secret that the Dodgers have courted pitching this offseason, as the last few months have seen them connected–substantively and otherwise–to Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Kwang-hyun Kim, Cole, and Strasburg. Their needs are less glaring, of course. The club already features Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias, and Ross Stripling. Add on one more top-flight arm? Sure, why not. It’s always been the m.o. of Andrew Friedman to stockpile as many effective arms as humanly possible, and a Kluber acquisition would give the club another frontline arm–even if he, like Kershaw, has been more good-than-great in his postseason career (career 3.97 postseason ERA in 45.1 innings).
That brings us to Texas. Their offer to Rendon was said to fall considerably short, with a reported 6-year, $192MM contract proposal sitting some $53MM shy of the Angels’ winning bid. Maybe the club wasn’t feeling as bullish as expected about the projected developmental windfalls expected to accompany their new ballpark (which was apparently set on actual fire on Saturday afternoon). Maybe the club simply has an organizational philosophy precluding it from entertaining $200M-plus deals–there would certainly be some merit to being wary of such a commitment. Either way, a Kluber addition would give GM Jon Daniels a wholeheartedly professional group of starting horses entering 2020. They’ve already added Kyle Gibson to a staff led by Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. Kluber’s addition would bring them to four veterans who, if not the youngest or the most alluring, would certainly make for perhaps the steadiest staff in the bigs.