Not a Lot of Positives to be Taken from Kluber Trade

Riddle me this, Tribe fans: What’s worse than dealing defending Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back years?

The answer may be dealing a two-time Cy Young Award winner and getting peanuts in return.

Corey Kluber’s headed to Texas, dealt to the Rangers for outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and reliever Emmanuel Clase. Mets and Phillies reliever Tug McGraw referred to his fastball as the Peggy Lee, because it left him wondering, “Is that all there is,” the title of her most famous song (which Clevelanders can STILL hear at the end of “Big Chuck and Li’l John”).

No doubt many Indians fans are asking the same question. The Indians outfield could use shoring up, and Clase has demonstrated just enough potential to make him intriguing, but is this the deal you make to ship Kluber out of town – AFTER shopping him around the previous offseason and not finding a deal worth your while?

The best case scenario here is that the Indians realized Kluber had nothing left. His 2019 season was about a month, as a freak comebacker broke his arm, laying him up for weeks, followed by a muscle strain as he was rehabilitating in the minor leagues. But for the previous five years, he was the class of the major leagues. He won at least 18 games in four of the previous five (the only one he didn’t, he led the league in losses, probably more due to poor run support than his own performance) and struck out at least 222 batters in each of the previous five.

But Kluber was a late bloomer. He made his major league debut in 2011 at the age of 25, and his breakout year in 2014 – his first Cy Young campaign – was the first year he’d thrown more than 200 innings. He’s definitely got more good days behind him than ahead of him, and the Indians started shopping him around in the last offseason, in no small part because starting pitching is the one area of the team that has a surplus – but because his trade value was never going to be higher.

The move is even MORE mystifying since it came after the Indians picked up Kluber’s $17.5 million option for 2020. Kluber was signed to a five-year extension in 2015, with options for 2020 and 2021. The 2021 option now turns into a vesting option, meaning if he pitches at least 160 innings and doesn’t end the season on the injured list, it’s picked up by the Rangers.

Like most trades, this one doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The move comes amid winter meeting rumors that the team is shopping around Francisco Lindor – and those rumors come after Indians owner Paul Dolan’s tin-eared statement to “Enjoy him.” This move, coupled with the Indians’ deals – or lack thereof – in the previous offseason seems to give great credence to the ill will among fans for the Dolans’ penury as Indians owners.

If there’s any consolation in all of this, it’s that the Indians dealing Cy Young Award winners reap dividends. CC Sabathia netted Michael Brantley, and Cliff Lee got the Tribe Carlos Carrasco. Then again, you’re supposed to be good at those deals when you’ve had as much practice as the Tribe has had.

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

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