Corey Kluber has been one of the better overall stories in all of baseball this year. The Cleveland Indians currently sit five games back of the second Wild Card spot in the American League, and their emerging ace is a tremendous reason as to why (despite his stinker of a start on Monday).
Kluber made 24 starts for the Tribe last year, his first full season as a starter in the big leagues, but it wasn’t until this year that he really began to break out. He’s been nothing short of dominant and is supplanted firmly in the middle of the American League Cy Young discussion. With what he’s managed to accomplish, and given the Indians’ penchant for locking up their young key pieces in the last couple of years, could he become part of a long-term solution in Cleveland?
On the season, even after a shellacking at the hands of the Tigers on Monday night in Cleveland, Kluber has posted some of the best figures of any pitcher in the American League. He has a 5.3 fWAR for the season, thanks to a strikeout rate just shy of ten K’s per nine, barely two walks per nine, and a 2.72 ERA backed up by a 2.66 FIP. His groundball rate is excellent, at just over 48 percent, and comes thanks to his combination of pitches that relies heavily on a sinker/cutter combo, with a slider mixed in as well. In short, there’s a lot to be excited about with Kluber, and his success appears to be very real, based off of his pitch set and what he turned in last year.
Nonetheless, when considering an extension, there are some things to consider that are relatively unique to the situation here. The fact that Corey Kluber is already 28 years old is certainly the largest factor to consider. He’s not going to get a decade long extension that some of these 24 or 25-year-old stars might have seen at the same point in their careers. However, he still stands to get paid quite a bit in the event that the two sides do examine a potential deal.
That’s not to say that a deal absolutely has to get done. The Indians have Kluber under team control for a few more years, and he isn’t going to be arbitration eligible until 2016, as things stand right now. With that in mind, there isn’t too much of a hurry. However, those arbitration years have the potential to come at a pretty hefty cost, especially if Kluber continues to perform at the kind of level at which we’ve seen him this year. As such, an extension could be the most logical scenario here.
Again, though, the age factor certainly limits the term of such a deal. Kluber isn’t going to sign for seven or eight years on a new deal. The purpose of such a pact would be to buy out those arbitration years, at the very least, and then maybe a year or two after. You look at deals that pitchers like Chris Sale or Derek Holland have received at similar points in their career, and you’re probably looking somewhere in the $6-8 million range, probably on the higher end of that scale.
A four-year deal seems most likely, given the Tribe’s history in extending pitchers. You could be looking somewhere at four years and $32 million as a starting point, perhaps a bit higher and some option years thrown in there as well. Such a deal takes care of arb years and then a couple after, as is the objective.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Indians approach this one. Do they give it at least one more year in which they can hand Kluber a six-figure deal and then explore a longer term deal right before he hits arbitration? Or do they take this year-to-year throughout and risk paying him big money through the arbitration process? Either way, this is a situation to keep an eye on heading into the offseason for the Indians, especially as the continue to lock up their young core.