Well, they finally did it.
The Indians, absolutely desperate to trade a pitcher of Corey Kluber’s caliber, shipped him off to Texas for Delino DeShields Jr. and Emmanuel Clase, a 21-year-old with a live arm, per reports.
Hooooooo boy, do I have some #takes on this.
Away we go:
I think this tweet about encapsulates the situation:
Like I always say, if you have a two-time Cy Young award winner that can help you be competitive in a weak league and division, you just gotta trade him. No doubt
— Joe (@JoeRiveraSN) December 15, 2019
The Indians are apparently so cash-strapped that they absolutely had to deal the two-time Cy Young winning Kluber for a package that includes — hold on, making sure I’m getting this right — Delino DeShields Jr., who is a good outfielder but can’t hit, and Emmanuel Clase, a guy who throws an 101 mph cutter and showed some upside in 2019. (Good outfielder who can’t hit is about spot-on with Cleveland’s brand, by the way.)
This is an Indians team that was surprisingly in the AL Central race until August and the AL wild-card chase until the late stages of the season. So, yeah, let’s deal Kluber away for almost nothing because reasons.
When you couple this news with the fact that the Indians are supposedly open to trading superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor just … what are we doing here, Cleveland?
Yeah, the Indians had a breakout season from Shane Bieber, they still have Mike Clevinger and a healthy and full season from Carlos Carrasco. But, why? They’re not a team that’s too far removed from being one of the AL’s best teams. They had a World Series appearance in 2016! They’re pretty much a non-player in free agency, and the turnaround from being in a World Series to wanting to tear it all down is startling, to say the least.
If this is a team that’s not going to want to spend on free agency — just look at last offseason, when Carlos Gonzalez was their big free-agent add — then why not go into the 2020 season with a full deck? This trade pretty much sums up the state of baseball today with some franchises. They would rather be maybe competitive in another year or two than be absolutely competitive today, all in the name of saving money. Is this where we are as a sport?
The Indians didn’t just get robbed here. They walked up to an armed robber preparing for a bank heist, gave him their ATM card and wrote their PIN on a Post-It note.
Sure, maybe Clase turns into an all-world pitcher because of Cleveland’s ability to develop pitching. It’s certainly possible. But why take that risk? This is Corey Kluber. This is a bad return.
The only reason Cleveland doesn’t get an F here is because Kluber is coming off a freak injury and has some proving to do in 2020, and Clase does have some upside, likely as a bullpen arm.
Good job, Cleveland! You got worse! But, hey, at least you saved some money!
If you’re the Texas Rangers, getting Corey Kluber for a center fielder who can’t hit and a young, wild-card pitcher is a home run. A slam dunk. A touchdown.
Clase is the Rangers’ No. 30 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline, but he does have MLB experience. Clase made his MLB debut last season and pitched pretty well: The 21-year-old threw to a 2.31 ERA in 21 games (one start) and 1.114 WHIP. Knowing the way Cleveland can develop pitching, he could potentially turn into a great pitcher. He certainly showed flashes of that in 2019.
The Rangers got better today, even though there are some questions in the rotation: Obviously, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn had sensational seasons for a surprising Rangers squad, and Kluber didn’t really pitch in 2019 because of forearm and abdominal injuries. But are we really expecting Minor and Lynn to be that good again? It’s tough to project and expect.
But if there’s an opportunity to improve your squad with a pitcher of Kluber’s track record, you have to do it. Maybe the Rangers won’t compete in the AL West this year, but they’ll at least make the division race interesting. And if they can build on their 2019 season, they’ll be a fun bunch to watch.
The Rangers also take on all of Kluber’s money in 2020 ($17.5 million) which, well, isn’t a lot when you consider what Kluber is capable of. And — he’s got one more year left, at $18 million, if the Rangers decide to pick up his option. If Kluber is good, then the Rangers got a top-end guy for a team who could threaten for a wild card. If Kluber is bad, it’s essentially a one-year deal who you traded a fourth outfielder and a relief guy for.
Good job, Rangers.
There are other teams in baseball that could have certainly matched this price for Kluber, which is something curious. But it is what it is — the Rangers ante’d up and got it done, and that’s what matters.