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Corey Kluber Might Be the Biggest Missed Opportunity of the Offseason

Oct 5, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) delivers a pitch during the first inning in game one of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Spring Training is officially underway and Manny Machado is finally off the market, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ offseason has effectively ended.

Barring an unseen last-minute acquisition, the makeup of the team is set in stone with A.J. Pollock, Russell Martin and Joe Kelly suiting up as the new guys in town. (Well, except for Martin, technically.)

With Bryce Harper still unsigned as of this writing, it’s more than fair to say Los Angeles missed a golden chance by not signing the Nationals star. Just like with Giancarlo Stanton last offseason, an MVP and generational talent was openly beckoning to wear Dodger Blue, but was passed on due to the ownership’s pedantic obsession with the luxury tax. If you follow me on Twitter especially, you know I wanted him badly.

Yet as of late, I can’t help but think the biggest missed opportunity of this meager offseason wasn’t Harper, but rather Indians ace Corey Kluber. It feels like a million years ago at this point, but back in November the two teams were in intense talks regarding a deal that would have sent the right-hander to Los Angeles. Cleveland needed to dump salary in order to acquire younger pieces, and the Dodgers were said to offer Yasiel Puig, with Alex Wood and Yadier Alvarez other potential chips. The deal never materialized, as Cleveland shed salary instead by trading Yan Gomes, and Kluber has reported to Indians Spring Training.


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In just about every way, Kluber would have been an outstanding get. A two-time AL Cy Young Award-winner, he’s fresh off his first 20-win season in 2018. He would have been right next to another multiple Cy Young-winner in Clayton Kershaw in the rotation.

Furthermore, he would have balanced a rotation that can easily be lefty-heavy, especially with Urias and Ryu healthy. He has postseason experience, pitching brilliantly throughout each round of the 2016 playoffs, most importantly two wins in three starts in the World Series against the Cubs.

Lastly, he is a great clubhouse presence, being famously nicknamed “Klubot” for his stoic disposition. Considering L.A. dealt Puig for ostensible personality issues, acquiring a humble star of his caliber would be ideal. It also would have been far, far, far, far, far, far better than getting Trevor Bauer.

This isn’t to say trading for Kluber wouldn’t have had any risks. He turns 33 this year, and while he avoided the disabled list in 2018, he needed an injection in his right knee to make it through the second half of the season. And while he was phenomenal throughout the 2016 World Series run, he hasn’t been on that level the past two Octobers, including being torched twice by Didi Gregorius to complete the 2017 ALDS collapse against the Yankees.

However, as we all know, the rotation as it is now can turn into a M*A*S*H unit at the drop of a hat. Kershaw’s back issues flared up for long stretches in his prime, and could get worse as he gets deeper into his thirties. Julio Urias isn’t far removed from an injury that had him miss the majority of 2017. Rich Hill’s blisters can pop up at any time. And Hyun-Jin Ryu can injure just about any part of his body. Having Kluber would have provided all the more cushion for other injuries.

This is not to say the Dodgers have no chance at a title in 2019 by missing out on Klubot. Even without him, they have what could be the best rotation in the game. Yet it’s precisely because the rotation is great as it is that they should have added him. It would have been the kind of spoiled move most expect from the wealthiest team in baseball, and made their lack of a superstar position player addition far more palatable.

Should the Dodgers need an extra arm this year, they’ll no doubt get it at the trade deadline. But it would have been far, far better to have the rotation shored up right from the opening pop. Additionally, they would have had his services for a few years, rather than just a few months like Yu Darvish. In this moment, Kluber is one of many missed chances for a team that desperately needs an impact move to get that last win in October.

Written by Marshall Garvey

22 Comments

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  1. I wonder if Cleveland was really that interested in getting rid of Kluber. Why would they? Except maybe for a lopsided bounty of players. But you said it best when you said they will get whatever they need at the trade deadline. That makes sense!

    • It’s true, it could have been a big haul. There’s only so much I can gather off of rumors and conjecture but god would I love to have him. The deadline it shall be!

  2. Marshall, Have you noted how this Front Office operates and what they say which is more controlled than probably any team in MLB?

    Cleveland wanted a Sale type return and they are in contention to win their division. As Daniel posted unless they received a very lopsided return they were not sellers. And if you think Harper is such an incredible talent worth that insane contract why does he not have teams lined up throwing money at him? Its not. IMHO, collusion it is sanity… I think San Diego was insane to sign Machado for that deal…WSS

    Dodger rotation pitching is their strongest position! Why would they trade several top level guys for a 33 year old pitcher when they have Stripling,,,he made the All Star Team granted he admitted he tired soon after and has worked to change his conditioning this year. Plus they have Urias who should be good after the shoulder injury as he is very young but he has special talent. Ferguson who is young and has learned to miss bats and has a great spin rate. Santana who may or may not be a starter. Gonsolin who has come up very quickly, May who is a stud, White, Alvarez who may be great if he can get his head out…and several others.

    This team will bring up Players as that fits their business plan….It is the best way to keep a team in contention every year. Signing players for 10 year guaranteed contracts for 30 plus million is financially insane.

    This team no matter what the naysayers write about is brimming with talent. The only real question mark which has been chewed over more than reasonable is catcher. The Front Office obviously believes that Barnes can fix the massive hole in his swing from 2018. Many bloggers do not. WSS who is right…

    By the way I live in Tucson, AZ and we have had two days of record snow…Wow..If you are coming out for Spring Training bring a jacket…

    • How could I forget Ferguson? I love that kid and whether in relief or starting he’s great. Love Strip but he has yet to put his tools together for a full season, if he does though all the better for us. But as I said in my article, almost all of the main players in the rotation have an injury history and sure enough we’ve already got concerns about Kershaw starting today. Kluber would make for good insurance in that event. Think last year when Strip was basically carrying the rotation, which he deserves way more credit for.

      As I commented above I acknowledge I can’t be sure what the exact asking price for Kluber would have been, so who knows. Puig, Alvarez and Wood were mentioned in rumors and I would easily deal them all. Maybe one of Smith/Ruiz/Peters but I’m happy we’re keeping them. On that note, I was perfectly fine with Barnes/Martin as we’ll improve internally at catcher in 2020.

      Trust me, I appreciate how talented this team is even without a major addition. But it’s understandable to be frustrated after two consecutive WS losses that have been followed with brutally frugal offseasons. To be linked to Stanton, Kluber, Harper, Machado, Realmuto etc. and not walk away with one when you’re the richest team in the game seems odd to me. We can still win it all with this squad, but when your biggest get is a guy who hasn’t played a full season since 2015…I dunno. Hope for the best, not expecting it I guess.

      • You stated….Trust me, I appreciate how talented this team is even without a major addition. But it’s understandable to be frustrated after two consecutive WS losses that have been followed with brutally frugal offseasons. To be linked to Stanton, Kluber, Harper, Machado, Realmuto etc. and not walk away with one when you’re the richest team in the game seems odd to me. We can still win it all with this squad, but when your biggest get is a guy who hasn’t played a full season since 2015…I dunno. Hope for the best, not expecting it I guess.

        Yep.

        What is a successful offseason to you? The Dodgers spend huge money over the cap and trade away top tier guys in lopsided trades? Unreal…. Realmuto why trade for him when they have some of the best catching prospects in baseball a year away?Stanton have you seen his contract?? Yankees have an anchor around their necks and are trying according to reports to get rid of him already. Harper, Machado Really?

        The only reason you are disappointed is your expectations are unrealistic. The job of the Ownership and Front Office is to put together a great team to compete for the WS. They have done that two years in a row….And they will win the division and be in the running this year. The sports journalists are out of their minds as they want the Dodgers to make deals that are financially insane or trade half their great Farm guys for 33 year old pitchers with a bad knee… Ridiculous…

        • I was perfectly fine with passing on Realmuto, I said so in an editorial earlier this month. The asking price for him was ridiculous, and we can low-ball it at catcher until the young guns come up in 2020. Stanton we ultimately are fine passing on with that contract, hell Kemp did better last year! It’s more the underlying principle, the lack of a big upgrade when the team is so close to winning it all.

          I get that that’s likely more of an emotional way of evaluating things on my part, not 100% practical. If they win the WS under the luxury tax, great. But it’s been 30 years and counting, and we’ve been outclassed by superior AL superteams in back-to-back World Series. This formula hasn’t worked on the biggest stage thus far, twice, so it’s not unreasonable to want a big move in the rotation or starting lineup.

          Back to Kluber…I wouldn’t pull the trigger if the asking price was too lopsided (maybe it would have been, but the talks died out pretty quickly so who knows). Again, Puig/Wood/Alvarez I’m fine with dealing as the first two went to Cincinnati.

          Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think it’s “unrealistic” to at least hope for some kind of a clear improvement, some big upgrade. Doesn’t have to be Kluber, Stanton, Harper, or Machado themselves. But something. This team got weaker on purpose last offseason after the devastation of losing game seven at home, then was clearly overmatched by a far better Boston team that got J.D. Martinez in that same offseason and paid the luxury tax. They upgraded, as did Houston when they got Gerrit Cole.

          This offseason, on paper, was not good. Best thing we got was Joe Kelly, which I loved and should make the bullpen more solvent. But when you look at the FA class and Kelly’s the best you walk away with…that’s underwhelming. Your comments make it sound like the Dodgers are Tampa Bay, when they have unprecedented access to money. They have the resources to improve, period.

          I fully understand the plan to keep the team contending on an annual basis. Develop the farm system (which dried up in the McCourt years), build within, stay young, etc. I do not take that for granted, I remember the mediocre dirge of the late ’90s/early ’00s with no October and am glad we’re back with clockwork regularity.

          I can only hope you’re right in your viewpoint. My and others’ hopes for a big move don’t matter anyway as they don’t plan on going over the tax until 2023, so they’ll have to win a championship on a relative budget regardless. And before the inevitable player’s strike.

          • Points well made, Marshall. the fact is , this team currently is made up of too many marginal players who are not proficient at hitting both sides of a pitcher, and unfortunately it appears this FO and management are setting and gearing up the youngsters to play within a L-R-L-R match up. Until the entire team does netter against LHP don’t expect a repeat appearance in the WS. Boston had , as ya say a far superior team with players who were not necessarily in and out of lineups on a daily basis depending on which hand the pitcher throws with. Why does anybody believe they resorted to excessive platooning in the 2nd half of last year?

  3. Why do the Dodgers need him? If the Dodgers finish in last place, they make the same amount of money. Guggenheim is a business. Spend the least while making the most profits. Business 101. Guggenheim got their $8 billion and whether Los Angeles residents can watch the games on TV is their last thought.

    • Not really….If the team stays noncompetitive the gate home and away drops, merchandising drops, tv viewership numbers drop and it erodes the value of the investment…That is business 101.

      According to reports the Dodgers need a certain revenue to service the debt.

      Plus the business plan of Kasten as it was with the Braves is sound. You build up the Farm System promote from within and only trade or buy free agents when you have a true need not filled by the Farm System. As this is Kasten’s structure we can be sure he has learned some things from his Atlanta Brave days and the Team should stay on top a very long time.

      Just in the infield they have Lux, Downs, Estevez, Rios and others. Catcher Smith, Ruiz, Wong and others. This team is built to compete for the next decade. As just in pitching they are almost 3 deep.

      • Please allow me to play the role of devil’s advocate. I agree, tmaxster that we are very fortunate to be as deep as we are at the pitcher position. However, season has not started yet and Kersh is out indefinitely. Buehler, Hill, Strips, and Ryu also spent time on the DL. This concerns me. As you correctly state, we have some young pitchers down in the minors; they are not yet ready for the most part to make a major league appearance. I like Ferguson, maybe Brock Stewart (who I found a tad underwhelming). A veteran presence on the club, one that Kluber or Keuchel could provide, would be a positive addition to the club, even if only for one year or two year period of time. Look at what we have given away this off season, and what we acquired. The FO fell asleep at the switch!!!! Go Blue!!!

        • BLUE LOU! Greetings from me and PD Jr. What has happened in the last few years anyway is Dodgers trading away a boat load of prospects at the deadline for 2 month rentals and for the following year end up with a big ZERO! I would have loved to get Kluber, for those reasons ya pointed out concerning the health issues of this rotation. But if the asking price was way beyond all limits then it probably was best to let that one go. But again, I an not too impressed at what was done so far this off season and for now at least I just cannot see this team being as good as the last 2 years.

          • If you are the Dodgers they are in a no win situation. If they go for it at the end of the year and get a star that most agree at the time should put them over the edge like Darvish and Machado the last two years and they do not win they are chastised for it later.

            If the Team signs an insane contract for a Harper all the pundits are happy until they have the reality of Harper on the team and the 10 year $30 plus million contract stopping them from making moves later on.

            This team is very good. I have been a fan since I saw a game at the Coliseum with my Dad as a little kid in 1958. Yes they have not won the title in 30 years but THIS management has gotten us to the WS two years in a row. Jeez you would think people would give them the benefit of the doubt with the clubs record instead of the constant criticism.

            They have way more data than fans have. They know how Barnes is doing with his change of hitting stance etc same with Bellinger. They have full reports on guys like Ryu and Hill and how they are doing. Full reports on Lux, Smith, Ruiz, Santana etc

            Because they have not won the WS everyone thinks they are better at judging talent than the guys paid to do it. Amazing

        • This is my line of thinking. I know we have tons of pitching depth but I think Kluber (or Keuchel if the price is decent) just makes things a little more balanced and sound.

      • So far the Dodgers are following the same exact pattern as those almost dynasty braves. They’ve lost 2 in a row like the braves did in 91 & 92. If it continues the Dodgers won’t win until 2021 and that’ll be it. Wouldn’t be shocked if that happens

        • As Kasten was president of those Braves, the similarities are downright eerie. As long as we get our 1995, I’ll be good.

  4. Season tickets are already sold. Time Warner can’t get out of the $8-billion contract with limited viewership. Guggenheim makes their money with zero fans at the game or 56,000 fans at the game. So far we have Kelly and lost Wood. Got Pollack and lost Puig and Kemp. Lost Grandal and got Martin. That doesn’t seem like a team wanting to “win it all” in 2019. It sounds like a team happy to win the West.

  5. Where would they put Machado and why would they want to spend that type of money?

    I really suggest you understand how this team is run so you can set your expectations accordingly and not be so disappointed on fantasy game type trades and Free Agents that are NOT going to happen

    And Pollock plus Verdugo I believe long term make up for Puig and Kemp. Although I enjoyed Kemp being back I have always liked Matt he is a great player and I think we all loved to see him in Dodger Blue again. And he carried us when we did not have Turner and had Seager hurt and then out.

    If they didn’t want to win they would not have traded for Darvish and Machado the last two years…

    • tmaxter, those players within the system and who are up here on the big club then should not be pigeon holed as many are, meaning they can only be used either against LHP or RHP. I would love simply to see a more consistent lineup of guys who are at least given a chance to show whether they can hit both sides of a pitcher or not. I do concur with you as far as the defensive end with Pollock and maybe Verdugo or whoever in the OF making up for Puig and Kemp.

      • Paul I agree. Most of us I think played baseball as young guys, I played through High School and and Club. Some guys can really hit, I was not one of them LOL….

        The guys in the MLB have the potential or they would not have made it this far. If a guy works on it they can in most cases, I believe, hit pitches delivered form either side of the plate a lot of it is seeing more of it….

        Turner had one bad year of Spits but corrected it the next year. Seager is consistently able to hit…Muncy also. I believe Pederson should be able to hit from either side, some of it has to be mental. But much is just the experience of it.

        I really like Verdugo, I think he will surprise if given a fair chance. Pollock I think was a much better signing than Harper…Yes I am sure people will say I am crazy but when you look at the incentive laden contract he was willing to sign he is willing to bet on himself. I think ALL baseball contracts should be negotiated with incentives rather than absolute guaranteed money.

        I get frustrated with sports writers and people that write articles creating expectations that are not very probable. They really need to look how this team is being run and PS it is a very good thing….

  6. The question really is, Will Guggenheim make more money if the Dodgers with a World Series? No. When you see how the Dodgers are run, as a business, a corporation, it’s not about winning on the field. To Guggenheim, all winning means is, the justification to raise prices. It’s about making the money. The O’Malley’s love of the team and of the game left a long, long time ago. Guggenheim is McCourt with a softer image. Guggenheim is a company run by businessmen who dabble in baseball, who hired hied a guy who knows baseball, Friedman. When viewed from a business standpoint, none of their trades and acquisitions are ever a surprise. I will still love my team and support whomever is on the field.

    • Mike we get to agree to disagree. Running a franchise so that it does not win is to lose value. If they are in contention they reap large benefits from merchandising, gate and additional TV money. Do not forget Kasten is part of the ownership group. Friedman was hired for his expertise but also to administer Kasten’s plan.

      What I do not understand is why people are so upset when the team continues with their plan. They will bring up Farm Player, NOT sign huge insane contracts and trade for positions of need. Frankly with Beatty, Lux, Estevez Rios and Downs in the Minors they have the infield covered for the Future. Catching Smith, Ruiz, Wong, Rodriguez, Cartaya and others it is covered…Pitching has a bevy of arms already mentioned..

      Outfield may have some room to sign someone although Pollock is there for several years and Verdugo will probably hold down one corner with a bunch of other guys Pederson and Bellinger depending if he plays at first in the mix. Plus the super subs in Kike and CT3. They do have Peters and Kendall that both strike out at too high of a rate to overcome their other talents. Peters has great power but his strikeouts and RISP numbers were not acceptable.Kendall runs like the wind and is a ++ player IF he can stop striking out so much. Reports are they are completely overhauling his swing and he is adapting to new mechanics so the jury is out on him. If Kendall can ever make consistent contact he will be promoted quickly as his athleticism is off the charts…

      My point being there is NO NEED for the team to go after every big name free agent as they have coverage in the Minors….

      Now if a generational talent like a Trout were in play then by all means give him whatever you can. But Harper and Machado are not those guys…

      Plus we have a couple of pitchers that may turn out to be exceptional aces in Buehler and Urias. Pitching wins baseball games….

      Enjoy the games and GO Blue…

  7. Marshall and Paul.. We get to disagree First off Paul mentioned the Dodgers are a bunch of Marginal Players surrounded by pitching. Please back that up…At 1st is Muncy/Bellinger , SS is Seager, 3rd Turner, Now it can be argued and has ad nauseum they have a hole at second but if you look at Taylor and Hernandez and/or Muncy their numbers make that a plus position offensively. None of these guys are Marginal…

    Outfield Pollock is a real talent I live in AZ and saw lots of Diamondback games yes he has gotten injured but thought enough of himself to sign an incentive laden contract, I believe he is a better fit than Harper as he is a plus defender. Verdugo WSS but many scouts and clubs are very high on him, and so am I. Many games will be Pollock, Bellinger, Verdugo, and then Pederson, Taylor and Kike not marginal at all.

    Now you can argue about Catching. I think Barnes can fix his swing and Martin will be rejuvenated, like Kemp, and have a solid year WSS.

    Pitching NOT MARGINAL… By the way I have always like Yimi Garcia I am hoping he comes back from all of the injury issues he was a really huge BP guy a few years ago. And we are all hoping Jansen is “right” this year and Kelly helps. Also hoping Alexander improves.

    So what guy are you so sweating to add? Kluber they apparently wanted Sale type prospect load that is why reportedly the negotiations did not go far. As the Indians are a real threat to win the Central I doubt they were serious. We have young arms that could pitch this year…

    Sorry you don’t make a trade just to make a trade to make the sports writers and fans feel good.

    I truly believe this team is better than last year IF the pitching holds to forecast. I truly believe Ryu will be back with a huge contract year. Hill is still spinning the ball and we have guys like Stripling, Ferguson, Urias, Santana, Gonsolin, White, May and others knocking at the door and to fill in when there is the inevitable injury. I also think Maeda is better than most give him credit for. Kershaw is a generational talent but WSS how he does it is all a mystery right now. And Buehler and Urias could be stars for a long time.

    To me, barring injury a full year of Seager, Muncy, Turner, Ryu and Jansen with the addition of Pollock,Verdugo and Kelly and the comeback of Garcia from injury make this team better. They are much improved defensively in the OF and at Catching…not a Grandal fan…They should win a 100 games…And be in contention for the WS again…

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