Red Sox Trade Target: Corey Kluber


Spring Training is now displaying a pitching staff that from top to bottom has inherent weaknesses. The magical pitching pixie dust has had minimal impact on the various acquisitions and holdovers. The staff resembles the back lot at the junk yard. Little of value, but the cost can still be high.

The arduous Red Sox search for ace status pitching has been Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto. Hamels, age 31, would require prospects and salary considerations of potentially 110M. Zimmerman and Ceuto would also require players and both represent a one-year rental. All three would mean some precious farm system chips.

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Corey Kluber will not be a free agent until 2019 so there is some level of team control beyond one season. Kluber’s 2014 season resulted in a Cy Young Award thanks to a league leading 18 wins and a spectacular 2.44 ERA. Toss in a league leading FIP of 2.34, a WHIP of 1.09 and Kluber led all pitchers in WAR with a 7.3. It gets better.

A HR/9 of 0.53 and a GB% of 48 – both among the very best in the league. Kluber took the ball for 34 starts and posted 235 innings in which he fanned 269.

The potential downside is if Kluber is a one-year wonder. In 2013 he had a nice season with an 11-5 record and a 3.85 ERA and FIP of 3.30. Very good numbers. Is Kluber going to be 2013 or 2014 in 2015? A team could pay a huge price for a pitcher whose 2014 season was a statistical blip.

Kluber would mean an injection of consistency for a few seasons as Justin Masterson and Rick Porcello are potential free agents and possibly gone. Clay Buchholz will be under team control, if they wish to exercise team options, and Joe Kelly and Wade Miley are also under team control, which may be a good or bad situation depending upon developments within the season.

Why would Cleveland even trade Kluber?

Contract talks have reached a stalemate. They may or may not go to the settlement level or they may go to the divorce court level. With Cleveland being a very good team in a division that includes favorites Detroit and Chicago this could be an opportunity to bring in some additional talent that may blossom in 2015 or 2016. Or maybe not?

What would it take to get Kluber?

The Red Sox top prospect is catcher Blake Swihart, but Cleveland has Yan Gomes (21/74/.278) who is entrenched in that position with Roberto Perez, only 25, as a backup. Cleveland can also slide power hitting Carlos Santana in for catching duties, if necessary. Swihart could possibly move to 1B, but again, Santana has that covered along with Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher.

The Red Sox have a surplus of outfield talent. Allen Craig is one who can play the corner positions, DH and fill in at 1B. Craig has an onerous contract coming off a poor season and Cleveland already has one in Swisher. Why take another?

The Cleveland farm system has a few young arms, but none that have the potential of Brian Johnson, Henry Owens or Eduardo Rodriguez. The Boston rotation also has a few with ability and question marks, so taking one would be a high risk option. As a GM I would require promising pitching talent and that would mean at least one of the aforementioned prospects from the Boston farm system.

A potential need exists at second base for Cleveland since Jason Kipnis had a disappointing slash of .240/.310/.330 in 2014. In center Cleveland has Michael Bourn, age 31, who also had an injury plagued 2014 that saw him appear in 108 games and hit .257. The speedy Bourn stole only 10 bases while being caught six times. This all points to only one player that could complete such a transaction – Mookie Betts.

Betts we know about. The shining star of ST and a 52 games wunderkind of 2014. Projected to be an All-Star and, at least to this observer, a five tool player, albeit with a tad less than say – 25 home runs a year?

A hypothetical swap would have to be built around a potentially talented impact player like Betts and young pitching. As with any deal the needs could change with other trades, injuries or failures of performance. The only way to get talent is to give up talent.

Boston has outfield strength and second base is set into the end of the decade. The farm system has talented Sean Coyle at Pawtucket playing second base and prospect Manuel Margot in the near future for the outfield.

As a Boston fan, I’d hate to send Betts packing. As a GM I would be tempted since I have coverage in the infield and outfield. With pitching prospects it is always a risk. The left-handers mentioned could eventually be Casey Fossum or they could be Jon Lester.

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