To Keep or Not to Keep: Corey Kluber
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll be discussing Corey Kluber.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Corey Kluber Background:
After injuries sidelined him for most of the 2019 season, Corey Kluber- two years removed from a Cy Young award- was traded for little to the Texas Rangers, for whom he’d pitch for 1 inning before missing the rest of 2020 with more injuries. Going into 2021, the New York Yankees took him on as a risk, hoping to rediscover his former top-of-the-line stuff, and to be fair, they nearly did.
In a season marked most by a no-hitter against his former team in the Texas Rangers on May 19th, 2021, just 8 days later he’d end up on the 10-Day IL, and 11 days after that be moved to the 60-Day IL where he currently will be until at least July 26th. However, in his 53.1 innings the Yankees were able to get this year Kluber was pitching well, to a:
4-3 Record (.571 WP; 10 Starts), 53.1 Innings, 3.04 ERA (136 ERA+; 3.79 FIP), 1.200 WHIP, 55 Strikeouts (9.3 K/9), and 23 Walks (3.9 BB/9).
As a player on just a 1-year/$10 Million deal for this year only, the Yankees have no long-term holds on Kluber and in signing him were hoping to find brilliance and a comeback story after two missed seasons. They have been able to get a nice story out of it so far, but what should the future hold?
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
Corey Kluber at the earliest can come back to the MLB from the IL on July 27th (the Yankees don’t have a game for the 26th), of which will likely include some minor league rehab starts in the meanwhile to get his pitch-load and routine back to shape. However, this poses an interesting question as he’ll be able to make just one start between then and the MLB trade deadline. Would a team be willing to trade for a player just 1 start removed from a 60-Day IL stint…especially a player with 2 prior years mostly missed for other injuries?
I wouldn’t imagine as much, so it seems more probable than not that Corey Kluber will not be traded away from the Yankees during the 2021 season. And while options like waiving him and hoping a team would pick him (and his contract) up during the month of August- remember there is no August waiver trade deadline anymore– I can’t see the Yankees being in a position where they will willingly send Kluber away. Even if they are on the outside looking in on a postseason spot, they’ll still want to remain competitive.
Unfortunately, this would mean a rotation spot would likely be held up going to Kluber as opposed to a prospect arm that could use a chance at the MLB, but given his track record there is also a largely probable scenario where Kluber doesn’t play much of the rest of 2021 anyway.
For the time being, given timing restraints on coming back from injury and this hindering the ability to sell on Kluber, I’m going to likely side with what the Yankees are likely to do and hold Kluber through the deadline. (That being said, he would be on the table for an offer if something decently enticing came across the table between July 27th and July 30th. I just don’t imagine that scenario will be happening in a months time.)