Why Trading Corey Kluber was Premature and Shortsighted

This winter the Cleveland Indians sent two-time Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielder Delino DeShields and young reliever Emmanuel Clase. DeShields is a gadget guy. A speedy outfielder who will steal bases and provide good defense. Clase is a young and relatively unproven flamethrower. It is worth mentioning that his upside looks very nice as he can touch 101 with his fastball. Clase’s only big-league experience came last year when he threw 23 and a third innings with an ERA of 2.31 and 21 strikeouts. Last year, DeShields posted a slash line of .249/.325/.672. This came along with 24 stolen bases and a WAR (wins above replacement) of 1.3.

If this trade would’ve happened last offseason, the Tribe would’ve gotten absolutely fleeced. Giving up a two-time Cy Young winner who had just won 20 games for a young reliever and a utility outfielder seems ludicrous. Kluber’s value plummeted last season as he posted an ERA of 5.80 with a 2-3 record in seven starts. To make this abysmal start worse, he suffered a broken forearm that ended his season. Due to that injury, Kluber never got the chance to right the shaky ship that was his season in 2019.

The Indians made the decision to trade him for the small package they did. I trust the very intelligent front office for the Tribe, that this was the best offer they could find at the time. My issue lies with the timing itself. Corey Kluber has won two Cy Youngs and has been to three all-star games. 2016-2018 he posted ERAs of 3.14, 2.25 and 2.89. Those are elite numbers. I understand he started 2019 with a bad seven starts; he’s 33 years old and he suffered a severe injury last year. I simply don’t think a bad seven starts outshines three-plus years of utter dominance. The injury lost him a year, but it was just a bone break in the forearm. No ligament or tissue damage in the elbow or shoulder. Meaning that there shouldn’t be significant long term effects. The age of 33 isn’t as concerning as it once was. Just look at Justin Verlander who’s 37 years old and still dominant. There’s no reason to believe that Kluber won’t bounce back to being at least quite close to what he once was. Meaning that if the Tribe had simply waited to trade him we could’ve gotten a much better return. A return probably similar to what the Diamondbacks got for Zack Grienke. The D-Backs received four nice minor leaguers. Three of which have very nice minor league careers and are on track to debut in 2020 or 2021 and one of which hasn’t been great but was a first-round pick in 2017, so clearly the potential is there.

Also, with injuries to Mike Clevinger and potentially Carlos Carrasco, we could really use the arm of an experienced two-time Cy Young winner to help hold the rotation down. Kluber could’ve helped get us through until guys were healthy and then been traded for a much better return.

Ultimately, Cleveland broke a simple rule, buy low and sell high. We sold Kluber when his value was an absolute low and that explains the return we got. The only way this trade isn’t a complete failure is if Clase develops into an all-star level closer.

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