General Manager Matt Klentak’s week in Scottsdale, AZ is over, having spent a week talking to other GMs, player agents and other big league executives regarding a number of off-season topics at the GM Meetings. One would assume the groundwork was laid for future free agent signings and trades that will take place over the next few months.
Make no mistake, the off-season is probably going to be long once again, and the Phillies will be in the middle of it. There are going to be rumors left and right, many of them contradictory, and we’ll parse though every one of them until we’re blue in the face.
Klentak noted this week, once again, that it’s time for the Phillies to win, right now. They will certainly be looking at the pitchers at the top of the free agent market, but what about that trade market? That gets talked about less, mainly because no one is really sure who is available. But there’s one name that makes so much sense for the Phils this winter.
Cleveland’s Corey Kluber could be the best way for Klentak to get that No. 2 or 3 starter he needs without pushing the team over the luxury tax.
I already noted previously that the team doesn’t have as much money as everyone thinks to fill all their holes through free agency. They’re going to have to make some tough choices. It sounds as though they’re playing some budgetary games with a potential J.T. Realmuto extension in an effort to keep any future money to the Phils’ Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning catcher in red pinstripes for the next half-decade. The only reason they’d do that is to stay under the luxury tax.
Clearly, the tax is something they don’t want to pay, and off-season decisions could be made with that in mind. That’s why it’s hard to imagine them paying for more than one big-money pitcher, including someone like Hyun-jin Ryu, who is in the tier below the top three of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler.
Kluber was a popular name last off-season but injuries limited the 33-year-old to just seven starts. Prior to that, he was one of the most dominant starters in the game, logging well over 200 innings a season from 2014-18, making three All-Star appearances and winning two Cy Young Awards along the way.
Is that pitcher still in there? It’s tough to say. He’s getting older, and still has two years left on his deal, for $17.5 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021. While that’s not cheap, it is cheaper than what it would cost to sign Ryu, Wheeler, and a number of other free agent starters on the market.
If Kluber returns to the pitcher he was in 2018, when he went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and finished third in the AL Cy Young voting, he’d be a steal at $17.5 million next year. Would Kluber on a two year deal make more sense than Wheeler on a four or five year deal at more AAV?
Adding Kluber would still allow the Phils to add someone like Cole Hamels, Wade Miley or one of the lower tier starters, and it probably wouldn’t take a ton in prospect cost to get him. He’s coming off an injury, will be 34 years old next year and Cleveland is looking to rid itself of high salaried players. They’re already shopping Francisco Lindor and could look to move out Kluber to save some cash, too.
No doubt he’d be a risky buy for the Phils, and Cleveland would be selling low, so a mid-season trade, after he’s reestablished some value, might make more sense for the Indians. But it’s entirely possible the two teams could match up on a deal sooner rather than later.
I talked about the Kluber possibility and ran down all the latest news and notes from the GM Meetings on Episode 335 of Hittin’ Season. Also, there was some chatter about Gabe Kapler to the Giants and the Astros sign stealing scandal, so check it out!