The extraordinarily fruitful Corey Kluber era just came to an end for Cleveland. The Indians decided over the weekend to trade the two-time American League Cy Young-winning right-hander to the Rangers for a package consisting of righty reliever Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields.
At least on paper, the Rangers now have an extremely formidable rotation. Lance Lynn and Mike Minor were among the premier starters in the game last season, but the Rangers struggled to complement them with capable options. However, the team has since added three credible big league starters in Kluber and free-agent signings Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, and suddenly owns one of the best-looking staffs in the majors as a result.
To secure the 33-year-old Kluber, who will be expensive in 2020 ($17.5MM salary) and comes with an $18MM option or a $1MM buyout for 2021, the Rangers parted with at least one intriguing player in Clase. Just 21 years old, Clase made a brief major league debut in 2019 and proceeded to toss 23 1/3 innings of 2.31 ERA/3.43 FIP ball with 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 60.6 percent groundball rate. All of those numbers stand out, as does the 99.3 mph average fastball velocity Clase posted in the process.
Clase seems to have the makings of a dominant big leaguer, whereas the 27-year-old DeShields has mostly hovered around replacement-level value over the past couple seasons after making a solid debut in 2015. Nevertheless, the Indians are banking on the fleet-of-foot DeShields putting it all together in their uniform, as they’ll control him through the 2021 season via arbitration.
Beyond the Clase and DeShields acquisitions, the small-market Indians saved a substantial amount of money in getting rid of Kluber. The Indians opened last season with a payroll around $120MM, per Cot’s, but they’re estimated to begin next year in the $91MM range, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource.
Cleveland could use some of the money that had been earmarked for Kluber to address at least one other need (second base? Outfield?). Plus, the Indians are already accustomed to life without Kluber, who didn’t pitch beyond May 1 last season after suffering a fractured forearm. Kluber had a surprisingly difficult time during that one-month span, as his 5.80 ERA over seven starts shows, and the Indians then saw Shane Bieber turn into a star, Mike Clevinger further establish himself as an excellent starter, and Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac make encouraging debuts. They’re also slated to welcome back the consistently outstanding Carlos Carrasco, who missed the majority of 2019 because of a leukemia diagnosis, to their rotation.
Now, both the Rangers and Indians seem to have set their starting fives well before the beginning of next season. In your opinion, though, did one team make out better than the other in the trade?
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