Blogging is a fool’s errand. You have a post go up at 10am about whether the Yankees would prefer James Paxton or Corey Kluber, and get your answer a few hours later. New York clearly sees something in Kluber’s pedigree, bringing the two-time Cy Young award winner into the rotation on a one-year, $11 million deal.
For Kluber, this is the opportunity for a resurrection of Hollywood proportions. He’s thrown just 36 innings over the past two years, after being hit by a comebacker in 2019 and tearing his shoulder after only a single inning of work last year. Those injuries sandwiched what at the time was a major trade from Cleveland to Texas, as the only team Kluber had ever played for dealt him all the way to Arlington.
Texas didn’t get what they wanted out of that deal, but the Yankees themselves have a chance to capitalize on a pretty high-reward scenario. $11 million is more than I thought Kluber would end up with — my initial text with Peter Brody figured around $8 mil — but it means he needs to be worth less than two wins for the Yankees to come out on top in a pure value sense. For a guy that’s averaged nearly five fWAR/180 innings for his career, I like those odds.
The shoulder injury should be a source of concern, but the fact that Kluber’s salary is higher than expected should indicate that there was something of a bidding war for his services. More than one team had to be interested in the right-hander, which means more than one team believed he could be a serviceable rotation option.
Lastly, moves like this, to me, indicate the real way the Yankee brain trust works. New York was always one of the favorites to land Kluber — his rehab was overseen by Eric Cressey, the team’s own strength and conditioning coordinator, and the Yankees’ pitching coach is Matt Blake, as knowledgeable about Cleveland’s process of churning out great arms as anyone in the game. Clearly, having those two in the room gave the Yankees an advantage in landing Kluber, and will likely make his transition to New York smoother than it might have gone for other clubs.
Corey Kluber is not the 230-inning, sub-2.50 ERA workhorse he used to be. The Yankee pitching rotation still has real question marks. If he flames out, Brian Cashman will rightly be criticized, along with Blake and Cressey, for pinning their rotation hopes on a guy who has barely pitched since 2018. If it works, though, if Kluber is even just a reliable #3 in the rotation, he becomes one of the best bargains in baseball. If he ends up even sniffing his former dominance, then he instantly turns into MLB’s best comeback story.