Gauging Corey Kluber’s Market – Is He Worth the Risk

Texas Rangers pitcher Corey Kluber participates in a drill during spring training baseball practice Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Published by Fran Cava

It’s no secret starting pitching is in high demand this offseason, while the market is pretty dry. You have a bonafide ace in Bauer overshooting his value, and then a huge drop in talent to the second available guy. Teams are looking to cut costs, and players are looking to increase wages. It’s an absolute mess right now, which has led to teams like the Mets taking advantage – by taking on money and acquiring Lindor. Teams have begun to shift their focus towards the mid-level arms, think Tanaka and Odorizzi. While these guys are still “big-ish” names, they aren’t top of the rotation guys. Both may still command a deal that 75% of teams may deem too high, which has caused some GM’s to start calculating some risks.

The group right below players like Tanaka could be categorized as the risk/reward guys. This is where our main man Corey Kluber comes in. His resume needs no introduction, but for those living under a rock the past decade, he’s been pretty good. A 2-time Cy Young Winner, he devastated the league from 2014 to 2018 with his phenomenal sinker. He was fun to watch, and his analytics back up his tremendous play.

The past 2 seasons though haven’t been as enjoyable for the big right-hander. For one, he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He’s gotten the injury bug, with a few being attributed to flukes but still, he’s getting old. Secondly, he’s struggled to get swing and misses as the league adapts more and more to sinkers/fastballs. His velocity seems to be dropping quickly and his pitch makeup may need some tweaking. To be more effective teams are going to stress for him to throw more breaking balls, as his slider was easily his second-best pitch during his peak. While this mostly sounds negative, teams are looking for low-risk high reward guys which Corey fits the mold for. Kluber underwent a showcase this morning to show off his repertoire, with representatives from 25 different teams showing up. Clearly, the league is interested.

This scenario is very similar to last year’s Rich Hill contract. Last offseason the Twins gave the 40-year-old a 3 million dollar deal with incentives based on innings and other obstacles that could reach up to 12 million. Kluber’s floor might be lower, but his ceiling is undoubtedly higher. Teams could offer something like a base of 6-8 million with incentives based around innings and bonuses like strikeouts and league leader placements. With incentives added the most Kluber could be looking at could be in the range of 20-24 million. A two-year team option would almost definitely be added to each deal, just in case he taps into his old form. If he’s even 50 to 60 percent of his old self, he could be a great 4th or 5th option. With a strong buzz created from his showcase this morning, offers should be rolling in within the next few weeks. Teams looking to bolster the backend of their rotations like the Yankees, Padres, Blue Jays, Indians, and Mets are all reportedly very interested. In the current free agent climate, I don’t think there’s a guy that gives you as much upside as Kluber for the value discussed above. He’s worth taking a flyer on.

2 Comments

  1. Yeah it looks like teams will be bargain hunting this year and guys like Kluber will be getting offers quicker then the top of the line players. I love the incentive laden contracts as a fan it’s a win win,. The player for your team does well then pay the man, no problem. If not you lost a few bucks taking a spin ! Terrible time for big name free agents last couple of years. Just look at DJ mvp type for the Yankees and hes still waiting by the phone.

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  2. I hope the Yankees are players in the next level pitcher market roulette. Although potentially speaking the Yanks have some arms to spare but the unknow knowns are too great to rely on and Gerrit Cole cannot endure the grind of the playoff battels alone. And God forbid we don’t sign DJ, that is the baseball gods anyway, although everyone knows the real god is a Yankee fan.

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