OCTOBER 30: The Rangers officially declined Kluber’s option.
OCTOBER 28: The Rangers plan to decline Corey Kluber’s $18MM option for the 2021 season, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com (via Twitter). They’ll instead pay him a $1MM buyout. Texas could still look to re-sign Kluber to a more affordable pact, Sullivan adds.
Texas acquired Kluber on the cheap from the Indians last winter, sending reserve outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and reliever Emmanuel Clase to Cleveland. It was a move clearly motivated by Cleveland’s desire to cut salary, but in retrospect it hasn’t paid dividends for either club. Kluber suffered a Grade 2 teres major strain in his first start with Texas — an injury that ended his 2020 season after just one inning. Up in Cleveland, DeShields was an unproductive member of a below-average outfield group, while Clase suffered a teres major strain of his own in March before being hit with an 80-game PED suspension in May.
This marked the second straight injury-ruined season for Kluber, although the 2019 issues were fluky in nature. Kluber suffered a fractured forearm when he was hit by a comebacker early in the year and then sustained a significant oblique injury while working through his rehab process. He posted just a 5.80 ERA in 35 2/3 frames in 2019, though that was accompanied by a far more palatable 4.06 ERA, and he did punch out 38 hitters in that time.
Of course, Kluber’s overall track record is superlative. He’s a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner — plus another pair of top-three finishes — and a three-time All-Star. From 2014-18, he was unequivocally on the short list of MLB’s most dominant pitchers, working to a combined 2.85 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 over the life of 1091 1/3 innings.
Kluber is now 34 years old and will turn 35 next April, so there’s reason for genuine concern that he’s past his prime. That said, few pitchers can match the upside he brings to the table, and that track record alone should be enough to get him interest on an incentive-laden one-year contract. It sounds as though Texas unsurprisingly would welcome the opportunity to bring him back into the fold, but Kluber seems likely to also generate interest from contending clubs, which could appeal to him at this juncture of his excellent career.