Late on Friday, the New York Yankees and Corey Kluber agreed on a 1 year, $11 million deal for the former Indian and Ranger to suit up in the Bronx during the 2021 season. Kluber, a two time Cy Young Award winner in 2014 and 2017, has pitched just 8 times since the start of the 2019 campaign due to various injuries including a fractured arm and torn muscles in his shoulders. Despite the injuries, if Kluber is able to stay healthy which all signs point to him being ready to go for the 2021 season, New York might’ve gotten themselves a steal in an area that has held them back from October glory the last few years.
While Kluber’s market was expectedly low based on his health the past two seasons, he has shown recently that he is trending back to his former self. Last week, Kluber threw a 30 pitch bullpen session with representatives from 25 teams on hand to watch the former Cy Young. All accounts reported that Kluber was impressive, topping 90 MPH on his fastball and showing off good movement on his breaking stuff. While his velocity may be down, don’t forget that we are still a month away from Spring Training and Kluber is pitching pain free for the first time in years, offering suggestions that more will come as he regains strength and consistency as baseball gets closer. The main reason why the Yankees jumped on him though, was for the pitcher Kluber was not so long ago in the hope that he still has some gas left in the tank.
In his last fully healthy year in 2018, Kluber was one of the top pitchers in baseball with a 20-7 record to go with an elite 2.89 ERA and 222 total strikeouts, good for an all star selection and a third place finish in American League Cy Young Award voting. Clearly, when he is healthy, Corey Kluber is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Even if he suffers another injury or just doesn’t perform in New York, his veteran leadership and playoff experience will only be a plus in the Yankees clubhouse as New York’s current core is still searching for its first World Series appearance since 2008. If Kluber does pan out and pitches to even half of his former self, the Yankees could possibly have three all star caliber starters in the rotation by the time Severino returns. Until he recovers from Tommy John though, the Yankees have reason to feel confident Kluber can be at least an option for a solid #2 or #3 in the rotation as Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt aren’t that established yet. Bringing in Kluber to aid in the rotation was huge for New York, but the best part of this deal comes with how it really can only benefit the Yankees.
With the signing being for just the 2021 season, New York will take no long term consequences from this. If Kluber underperforms or lands on IR again, there is no detriment in the future for the team. While $11 million is a bit of a number for a guy who hasn’t pitched under normal health in over 2 seasons, the track record that Kluber built up in Cleveland in season’s prior evens the price tag out, not that $11 million is going to break the Yankees bank.
I love this move for the Yankees. Since Kluber is only under contract for the 2021 season, this is a low risk, high reward situation for New York. With Kluber fully healthy and looking impressive in the offseason, there is reason to believe he could be a very good #2 guy in a Yankees rotation that has been short of quality depth in starting pitching in the last few years. Corey Kluber will be pitching for a contract this season, meaning it is put up or shut up for the former all star to prove he is still a big time arm in baseball. And what better place to bounce back than the Bronx, where the media and fans will certainly push him. In contract years, pitchers tend to tune it up a notch in order to get themselves a payday the next winter. With Kluber entering his age 35 season, he needs to prove he is still an elite level starter to have any real hope of being considered beneficial to a winning team. He’s been given the opportunity to help the Yankees win a World Series and if he pitches like we know he can, not only will New York be one of the scariest squads in baseball but Kluber could get himself back among the ranks of baseball’s best starting pitchers.