Over a year of trade rumors surrounding Corey Kluber came to an end this afternoon, as the Indians dealt their longtime ace to the Rangers in exchange for outfielder Delino DeShields and right-hander Emmanuel Clase (plus $500K, in a split of the $1MM assignment bonus Kluber received in the event of a trade). Here are some of the early takes on the trade, plus some of the potential aftershocks that might yet be forthcoming…
- Kluber’s struggles and drop in velocity at the start of the 2019 season are a concern, ESPN’s Keith Law writes in a subscriber-only piece, while Clase is a very intriguing young reliever. That said, Cleveland’s overall trade return is “so light compared to what Kluber was as recently as 2018 that it feels like this was a move to dump salary rather than a way to rebuild with younger players.” Kluber is owed $17.5MM in 2020 and is controlled via an $18MM club option for 2021 (with a $1MM buyout).
- What the Tribe will do with this newfound payroll space is on the minds of Marc Carig and Jason Lloyd as part of The Athletic’s writers roundtable of opinions on the trade (subscription required). The club could be content to just pocket the savings as part of a more thorough rebuild that could include a Francisco Lindor trade this winter. But, with the Indians still in position to contend within a weak AL Central, dealing Kluber could create enough payroll relief to make the team even less likely to move Lindor in the short term, and spend the money saved on Kluber to address other needs. “Given the number of teams that were involved in the Kluber rumors, it’s hard to dispute that this was the best return they [the Indians] could fetch,” Lloyd writes, with Ken Rosenthal also noting that Cleveland might have been concerned that Kluber’s value could further decline prior to the 2020 trade deadline.
- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti discussed the deal with reporters (including The Athletic’s Zack Meisel and MLB.com’s Mandy Bell) and addressed the “variety of different packages” offered by “a lot of teams that had interest in Corey.” One of the factors that helped sway the talks in the Rangers’ direction was that Clase and DeShields are “two players that could come back and help us in 2020 and help us try to sustain the level of competitiveness we’ve had over the last seven years.” Even in the short amount of time since the trade was announced, Antonetti revealed that some teams had already called to ask if Clase was available in a follow-up deal.
- The Angels were one of the teams known to have interest in Kluber, though Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link) reports that the Indians wanted highly-touted outfield prospect Brandon Marsh and another top-10 prospect from the Halos’ farm system. It was a significant ask, given how Marsh is widely considered to be the Angels’ second-best prospect (after Jo Adell) and is ranked by Fangraphs as the 74th-best prospect in all of baseball. If Cleveland was seeking for such a return for Kluber from the various teams in the hunt, Fletcher notes that it could be a sign that “they have a much higher opinion of Clase than most of baseball.”
- While DeShields’ lack of hitting kept him from being an everyday player in Arlington, his departure creates more questions within an already uncertain Rangers outfield mix. Texas GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan and other reporters that the Rangers will look for an experienced center field through either a trade or a signing, though for now, utilityman Danny Santana is penciled in as the club’s center fielder. Over his career, Santana has posted subpar fielding numbers (-7.2 UZR/150, -10 Defensive Runs Saved) over 1108 innings as a center fielder, and he has more overall value to Texas a player who can be shifted around the diamond rather than locked into an ill-fitting position.
- Daniels said his front office first discussed Kluber with the Indians earlier in the offseason, and only circled back after the Winter Meetings, and after the Rangers came up short in their attempts to sign Anthony Rendon. Negotiations became more serious once Texas agreed to move Clase as part of the deal, speaking again to how highly Cleveland values Clase’s ability.