Coming off yet another American League Central crown, the Cleveland Indians are now looking to sell off a few pricier veteran pieces in a way to stay financially focused while not losing their stranglehold on winning the division. And the biggest name involved in these rumors and rumblings is Corey Kluber.
The team’s resident starting rotation leader may be joining another team before the 2019 MLB season even begins, which would best help him acclimate before the season begins. While the Indians would be better off keeping him, here are three teams that could come out of the rumor will with Kluber in tow, paving the way for their 2019 season to become much better than expected.
San Diego Padres
One of the most frequently-listed teams that are connected to the rumor mill, the Padres secured a meeting with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper this week in hopes of convincing him to bring his talents to Petco Park. An absolute offensive dream for Harper, Petco would offer him a great place to mash for half of the year as Petco is an offensive dream for players.
Even if the team would not be able to bring Harper in, they should still try and acquire Kluber, who would help combat the high offensive numbers put up by opponents in San Diego. Kluber, who has pitched at Progressive Field, would be moving from a pitcher-friendly park to one dominated by the offense, which would be a big change for him.
In order to bring Kluber to the Padres, the team would need to raid their highly-ranked farm system to do it, as Kluber is an ace that would immediately be plugged into that role for San Diego. Highly-regarded prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. would need to absolutely be off the table, as should pitcher Mackenzie Gore, but all other prospects should be available to be dealt in any deal.
Of the three teams on this list, they seem not only the most likely but to also have the best chance of trading for Kluber, due to their willingness to change their mindset to wanting to compete and their ability to shell out the necessary type of minor league talent that the Indians will be looking for.
The least likely of the three National League teams included in this list, the Cardinals have already added a slugger and a big-time reliever during the offseason and could stand to add another arm to their rotation. Kluber would slide right into the thick of the NL Central, and would immediately give the Cardinals good odds to make noise in the playoff picture.
The weakest farm system of the three listed teams, the Cardinals would need to dig into their already-struggling system which is reeling from the big pieces that were moved to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is what makes St. Louis acquiring Kluber highly unlikely, as they need at least a half season to reassess their farm and see what moves can be made before the trade deadline.
While Kluber would for sure help the Cardinals chances of not only making the playoffs but winning the Central, that type of impact on their team would not be enough to justify making that move.
Probably the best spot for Kluber to land from this list’s options, the Braves are quite close to making much more noise in the playoffs than they did in 2018, falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Another strong team that has another strong farm system, the Braves are in prime position to make a big move like bringing in Kluber.
Needing a bigger addition to their rotation to make that next leap up in the standings, the Braves would be smart to go after Kluber, especially after they saw how strong of a team they had in 2018 and what they were missing.
While the Padres have the best assets to offer the Indians in terms of prospects and the Cardinals offer the best (potential) chance to make noise in the playoffs, the Braves are the likeliest team to make a move for Kluber. With the types of moves that their fellow NL East rivals have made in the offseason, the Braves would be smart to keep up with the offseason progress made.