When you really think about it, quite a number of rumors that have generated surrounding the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings have been borderline crazy. Some sources have the Dodgers talking to the Tigers about 26-year-old outfielder Nick Castellanos, while other outlets say Los Angeles could be considering offering a deal to A.J. Pollock. The front office crew of the Dodgers is certainly leaving no stone unturned, and with one big trade or signing, the complexion of the team could change in the blink of an eye.
The Dodgers have been reported to be talking with the Indians since the days before Thanksgiving, but momentum seemed to fizzle a bit when Yan Gomes was dealt to the Nationals. However, more discussions have been happening, with the latest rumors believed to be surrounding righty pitcher Corey Kluber.
I’m one of those guys who believes the Dodgers should address the needs of the bullpen and catcher before pursuing starting pitching or outfielders, but oftentimes it’s tough to capititalize on opportunities based solely on priorities, especially when a two-time Cy Young Award winner is thrown onto the trading block.
The latest chatter suggests that the Indians are asking for Alex Verdugo as the centerpiece of a proposed deal, but if it was just solely Verdugo that Cleveland wanted, surely a trade would have happened by now. In the same breath, Verdugo may be the biggest bargaining chip of the Dodgers, so if he’s sent away early, it takes many other scenarios off the board. One of those could be the pursuit of catcher J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins, who, coincidentally, have asked for a package to be built around first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger.
The addition of somebody like Kluber could start a domino effect, most specifically leading the Los Angeles front office to shop a few of its surplus starting pitchers. The first name that comes to mind is Alex Wood, considering Cleveland’s shortage of lefty starters.
So, are the two Alexes—Verdugo and Wood—a reasonable proposition to the Indians? I think I would make the deal without blinking, which leads me to believe that Cleveland may want an even better return.
Kluber’s credentials speak for themselves, unless there’s something happening mechanically or healthwise for which scouts and pundits are oblivious. He’s thrown for 200 innings the last five seasons, and he’s won 18 games each of the past three years. Seemingly, he’s throwing better than ever, as his ERA has been under 3.00 and his WHIP under 1.00 over the last two seasons. On top of that, his 1.4 BB/9 last year was a career low.
And, when considering the buyout structure of his contract, he could potentially stick around through the 2021 season. With a salary of less than $18 million per year, he has bargain written all over him, even with all the mileage on his arm.
While the Dodgers don’t want to deal Bellinger to the Fish, and the Indians don’t want either Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp as the centerpiece of a Kluber package, bringing Verdugo into the picture makes sense. Joc Pederson is only two years away from free agency, likely taking him out of the running for inclusion, and players like Chris Taylor or Andrew Toles don’t appear to have the upside that Cleveland desires.
There are plenty of free agent catchers and relievers on the market, and by adding a pitcher who has the ability to put up 20 wins with stellar numbers to boot, such an addition may outweigh an acquisition of a catcher who can hit .277/.340/.484 with 20 long balls.