• Chris Lollis

Should the St. Louis Cardinals Trade for Corey Kluber?

Corey Kluber (photo credit Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports)

Should the St. Louis Cardinals Trade for Corey Kluber?

There is no question that the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest needs this off-season, would be that of an impact bat in the lineup & something to solidify the bullpen. Corey Kluber is none of the above. So why entertain the idea that of pursuing the ace of the Cleveland Indians? Well, it could be something to consider.

The Indians finished the 2018 season winning a very weak AL Central Division with a 91-71 record and as first reported by ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, they “will listen to trade offers for some of their veterans” over the winter because the team is “faced with market constraints.”

Cleveland had a $134M payroll in ‘18 which was a record high and up $40M from just two seasons ago.

It has been said that several teams have contacted the Indians and that the asking price for Kluber is very high. It will likely take some top level pitching prospects to even get Cleveland to consider moving him.

Despite the Cardinals desire to hold onto their pitching prospects, they do have several young arms that they could package in a deal if they felt like making a legit offer.

St. Louis, while having a plethora of pitching, does lack a designated ace of their pitching staff. Carlos Martinez who began 2018 as their #1, ended the season closing. While he is said to return to a starting role, the term “ace” has not been completely placed upon him.

Miles Mikolas was by far the best pitcher for the Cardinals in ‘18, but it’s unrealistic to “expect” as great a year for him in ‘19. The fact that the “Lizard King” is only on the books through next season is also to think about.

Jack Flaherty had an amazing rookie season for the club, but he would likely & rightfully so be considered one of the only “untouchables” as far as St. Louis is concerned.

There are question marks surrounding exactly what Adam Wainwright’s role will be, what Michael Wacha & Alex Reyes’ health might be, and whether or not Jordan Hicks will be anointed closer or if the team will look to land one via free agency.

That leaves young pitchers Austin Gomber, Luke Weaver and Dakota Hudson vying for time, as well as pitchers John Gant, Mike Mayers, Daniel Poncedeleon. There are also pitchers like a Dominic Leone & John Brebbia who are serviceable arms and minor league pitchers Giovanny Gallegos, Connor Greene & Derian Gonzalez who are currently on the Cardinals 40-man roster.

Cleveland will likely want a package of (at least) 3 of the better arms listed above, and despite having Edwin Encarnacion & Yonder Alonso alternating 1B & DH, a José Martinez could possibly soften the blow as an additional trade chip for an Indian outfield/bench role.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, there are stipulations in Kluber’s contract that the team options for the following 2 seasons after 2019, become guaranteed if he is traded. Also, there are Cy Young Award voting incentive clauses that could bump his annual salary which currently sits at around $13M-$14M the next 3 seasons which would take him through age 35.

If the Cardinals go this route, yes it would mean losing young, cost controlled arms, but would also free up some space on their 40-man and allow them to replace those via the free-agent reliever market while getting an ace in the process.

It would also not hurt them financially enough to not pursue an impact bat on the market.

If you were John Mozeliak & Michael Girsch, would you make an offer for a guy who has at least 200 innings pitched and at least 200 strikeouts in each of the past 5 seasons? A 3 x All-Star and 2 x AL Cy Young Award winner?

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

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