Further Examining Padres’ Trade Target Corey Kluber

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

The San Diego Padres have been linked to Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians in their search for pitching help. Here is a look at Kluber and what he brings to the table.

It’s been a quiet offseason for the Padres thus far, as the team has been uncharacteristically inactive in the trade market and free agency. The team certainly has areas of weakness that need to be addressed, most notably in the starting rotation. It appears that finally, the team may be close to acquiring some much-needed starting pitching help. This rumor regarding the Padres potentially trading for Indians’ ace Corey Kluber was confirmed by Jon Morosi:
This is the kind of move that can significantly help the Padres turn things around, and move towards contention in the coming seasons. Kluber’s resume largely speaks for itself, yet we should still take a look at his numbers to fully understand his value. Here’s how Kluber stacks up in comparison to baseball’s best pitchers over the last five seasons:
Top MLB Pitchers Sorted by fWAR, 2014-18
Rank Pitcher FIP K/9 BB/9 IP fWAR
1 Corey Kluber 2.84 10.13 1.84 1091.1 31.0
2 Clayton Kershaw 2.34 10.50 1.40 916.1 30.8
3 Max Scherzer 2.88 11.30 2.12 1098.2 30.8
4 Chris Sale 2.69 11.55 1.86 981.2 30.5
5 Jacob deGrom 2.81 10.03 2.23 897.2 24.9

He ranks above even Clayton Kershaw in fWAR, proving that there’s a very legitimate argument for him being the best pitcher in Baseball during that time.

We always knew that Kluber was an ace, but the numbers above tell us that he’s been even more than that.

Having pitched at such a high level for the period of time he has, we can feel secure about Kluber being able to keep up this level of pitching as he moves into his mid-30s. He’s put up 12.9 fWAR in his last two seasons at ages 31 and 32, so age has clearly not been much of a limiting factor for Kluber.

To emphasize the impact a pitcher like Kluber could have in San Diego, let’s put his production over the last five seasons into perspective. Here are the same numbers as above, compiled by the Padres’ pitching staff over the same time period:

Padres’ Pitching Staff Performance, 2014-18

Pitcher(s) FIP K/9 BB/9 IP fWAR
Padres’ Team 4.11 8.27 3.27 7206.1 58.1
Corey Kluber 2.84 10.13 1.84 1091.1 31.0

Singlehandedly, Corey Kluber has produced more than half of the fWAR put up by the entire Padres pitching staff over the last five years. He’s almost outproduced the entire Cincinnati Reds pitchers as a team, who put up 32.1 fWAR during the same period of time. The point is that he would immediately upgrade the Padres’ pitching staff to an extent that we probably didn’t even realize until we looked at these statistics. Ok, but how many years of control are left on Kluber’s contract? Is he affordable enough for the Padres?

First, let’s begin by looking at the money owed to Kluber over the course of the rest of his contract. Here’s what he’ll be earning over the next three years:

Year Kluber’s Age Salary ($)
2019 33 17.2M
2020 34 17.5M
2021 35 18.0M

He’s under control for the next three seasons and is owed a good chunk of money over the course of those three years. $52.7 million, to be precise — Yet in a time in which the Red Sox just paid Nathan Eovaldi $68 million on a four-year deal, we should realize that Kluber’s contract is very reasonable. To further examine how cheap Kluber is, let’s look at the contracts of the four other pitchers we compared him to earlier:

Rank Pitcher Controlled Through Contract Years
Average Annual Value ($)
1 Max Scherzer 2021 3 35.9M
2 Clayton Kershaw 2021 3 31.0M
3 Corey Kluber 2021 3 17.6M
4 Chris Sale 2019 1 15.0M
5 Jacob deGrom 2020 2 12.9M

Although he isn’t as dirt-cheap as Sale and deGrom, Kluber is still very affordable in comparison to Scherzer and Kershaw. He’s also controlled as long as Scherzer and Kershaw, but for an obviously much lower price. Being a small to mid-market team means the Padres must be more careful in their spending, so someone like Kluber would be perfect for the team as far as affordability is concerned. So far so good, as far as our evaluation of Kluber is concerned. The final question to ask: Can Kluber continue to pitch at the same level he has over the last five seasons, in his age 33-35 seasons?

To begin investigating Kluber’s profile in search of any signs of wear and tear, or fatigue as he’s aged — Let’s look at his Sinker velocity over the last five years, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Kluber throws a sinker most often as his primary fastball pitch, and that’s why we’re looking at its velocity rather than any of this other pitches. It’s concerning that his velocity is down on the pitch during the last couple of years, but certainly not a deal breaker. After all, Kluber threw the pitch with less velocity in 2017 and put up 7.3 fWAR on his way to winning the AL Cy Young award. There may be a slight drop in performance due to his loss in ‘oomph’ on his sinker, but there shouldn’t be enough of a difference for the Padres to be hesitant about trading for him.

Obviously, the Padres need to upgrade their pitching staff before the start of next season if they are going to realistically compete. If Corey Kluber is available, we should expect GM A.J. Preller to explore every trade possibility necessary to bring the right-handed ace to San Diego. In addition to his statistical resume we just went over above, players and coaches have raved about his clubhouse presence and work ethic. He’s been the best pitcher on the planet over the last five years and has a positive influence on those around him. What more can you ask for in a pitcher? This is a player the Padres should acquire, in their quest to return to relevance in the NL West.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

2 thoughts on “Further Examining Padres’ Trade Target Corey Kluber

  1. The Padres might have to give up a little more to get Kluber than what they received when originally trading him to Cleveland.

  2. Do not agree at all. This would be a good signing in 2 years but not yet. Stay patient and let’s see what we have in these kids.

    The Hosmer signing was terrible and get rid of Myers.

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