Red Sox: Corey Kluber deal sets bar for David Price trade

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 20: Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches in the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 20, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 20: Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches in the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 20, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The acquisition of Corey Kluber by the Texas Rangers gives us an idea of what the Boston Red Sox can expect if they trade David Price.

We’re beginning to get clarity on what the Boston Red Sox could expect in return for trading David Price and the outlook is underwhelming.

The Texas Rangers upgraded their starting rotation by acquiring Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. The former Cy Young Award winner is coming off an injury-riddled season in which he produced the worst results of his career. Sound familiar?

Kluber turns 34 years old in April, the same age Price is now. While his contract isn’t nearly as expensive as Price’s, Kluber isn’t cheap. He’s owed $17.5 million in 2020 plus an $18 million vesting option for 2021 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 160 innings and isn’t on the injured list to end next season.

The Red Sox appear willing to include around $30 million in a Price trade, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Bringing the financial commitment for the acquiring team to somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million over three years puts his contract more in line with Kluber, only with an additional year of control.

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Cleveland didn’t need to attach any prospects to sweeten the deal and the Red Sox won’t do that with Price. As long as they are willing to eat enough of the contract to whittle his salary down toward Kluber’s price range, they won’t need a sweetener.

Price’s trade value is marred by being viewed as an injury risk coming off of a down season but that’s no more the case than it was for Kluber. Price was one of the league’s best pitchers in the first half of the season before developing a cyst on his wrist that hindered his delivery. Attempting to pitch through the ailment sent his season spiraling down the drain until he eventually was placed on the injured list.

Kluber managed to make only seven starts this year and produced a brutal 5.80 ERA – about a run and a half higher than Price’s 4.28 ERA. There were no encouraging stretches during Kluber’s abbreviated season and his declining velocity was a growing concern even before this lost year.

Both pitchers carry risk but Price is the safer bet to bounce back in 2020. Enough so to offset concerns of the extra year on his contract and perhaps a slightly higher salary, depending on how much the Red Sox are willing to pay.

Boston is in the same boat Cleveland was in shopping an overpriced former ace, which is why the Indians have given us the blueprint for what a Price trade could look like.

In exchange for Kluber, Cleveland received right-handed pitcher Emmanuel Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields from Texas. The former is a hard-throwing reliever who showed some potential as a rookie last season. The latter is a speedy outfielder who struggles to get on base and has very little pop in his bat.

A reliever with the potential to eventually ascend to a late-inning role and a role player best-suited as a fourth outfielder. That’s all Cleveland was able to get for a three-time All-Star who was the anchor of their rotation. If Kluber comes remotely close to returning to form, this trade is an absolute steal for the Rangers. Cleveland took 10 cents on the dollar in order to escape the risk of a veteran pitcher recovering from injury and unload a contract they could no longer afford.

The Red Sox will now attempt to follow a similar path with Price. They won’t get fair value in return. All they can hope for is a couple of spare pieces, perhaps a middling prospect or two. Trading Price won’t improve the roster or restock the farm system. This is all about shedding most of his salary in an effort to avoid paying the luxury tax.

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The Kluber trade shows us that moving an expensive player following an injury-plagued season is a realistic endeavor. If the Red Sox do indeed decide to trade Price, they should be able to dump the majority of his contract without attaching valuable assets to entice anyone to take him off their hands. Boston shouldn’t expect to receive much in return, although that really isn’t the goal at this point.