The Cleveland Indians will enter the upcoming season without their star pitcher. The team traded ace Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says Kluber had been at the center of trade rumors for the past year.
The Indians started fielding offers for Kluber in 2018. “Even after he had won 20 games, they found that the offers weren’t particularly good," Pluto said. "Manager Terry Francona said he didn’t want to lose a starting pitcher, so they kept him.”
No market for a two-time Cy Young winner?
So, why wouldn’t the offers be good for a two-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher?
“They sit there with their spreadsheets and they look at when guys when get to be 30, 31, 32-years-old and they’ve pitched a lot of innings. For a five-year span, no one pitched more innings in the American League than Corey Kluber. It’s like a car with a ton of miles, something bad is going to happen," Pluto said.
The Indians opened the 2019 season with Kluber. He made seven starts before he suffered a season-ending injury. "But the last four starts before he got hit with a line drive and broke his pitching arm, he allowed 16 runs in 20 innings," Pluto said.
So, the Indians figured it was time to make a move and avoid paying Kluber $17 million next season. But the deal had to be right. The team wanted players who were ready for the big leagues, not prospects.
Was it a good trade?
“There’s a pitcher named Emmanuel Clase. He’s 21-years-old. He throws 99 mph. And he strikes out a bunch of guys and he’s already in the big leagues. And they got a so-so outfielder in Delino DeShields. But Clase was the guy they really wanted."
Still, the Indians won 93 games last year. Kluber won just two before he got injured. "Their point is, they have young pitchers and they don’t think the bottom is going to drop out of this by trading Kluber," Pluto said.
But, Pluto acknowledges that losing Kluber hurts. "He is the best pitcher in an Indians uniform for that five years that I’ve seen in my lifetime," he said.
What about Francisco Lindor?
All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor has also been at the center of trade rumors. He becomes a free agent at the end of next season and the team won't pay the hefty price he’ll be asking in a new contract.
Pluto said the team was close to a deal with the Dodgers for prospect Gavin Lux, but the Dodgers wouldn't give him up.
"I was told by a top person at the Indians that they couldn’t get anything close on Lindor. He’s one of the top five or ten players in baseball. And if you really add in the durability that he has, the personality, [and] the leadership ability of being bilingual, he really is worth his weight in gold. But in the meantime, the Indians say, 'Fine. We’ll try to go win our 90-some games again and we’ll keep him.'"