The New York Yankees are flexing their muscles hard on Friday. Earlier in the day, it was reported that the Yankees are finalizing a six-year, $90 million deal with star infielder D.J LeMahieu (who had an MLB-best .364 batting average in 2020), and now they have reportedly agreed to a deal with a two-time AL Cy Young winner.
Several reporters confirm that the Yankees and right-handed starting pitcher Corey Kluber have reached agreement on a one-year, $11 million contract.
Right-hander Corey Kluber and the New York Yankees are finalizing a deal that will bring the two-time AL Cy Young winner to the Bronx, pending a physical, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 16, 2021
Kluber's deal with the Yankees is expected to be for one year and $11 million, per source.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 16, 2021
The $11 million contract with Corey Kluber and #Yankees becomes official when he passes his physical.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 16, 2021
Now, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes, the completion of this deal is pending a physical. And that’s a pretty significant thing here.
In 2019, Kluber pitched just 35 2/3 innings for the Cleveland Indians before suffering a season-ending fracture on his pitching arm. The Indians then traded Kluber to the Texas Rangers ahead of the 2020 season, and Kluber went on to pitch one inning before suffering a season-ending right shoulder tear.
So, Kluber has thrown just 36 1/3 innings over the past two seasons due to season-ending arm injuries, and he turns 35 in April. Additionally, it was natural to be concerned about how Kluber would age to begin with, after an absurd workload over 2014-18 in which he averaged 218 innings pitched.
Then again, Kluber’s production over that time is what makes him is so intriguing, and why the Yankees are willing to pay him $11 million if he can pass the physical.
From 2014-18, Kluber averaged a 2.85 ERA (in the AL, mind you), a 2.84 FIP, 10.13 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, and 6 wins above replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs. He was the AL Cy Young Award recipient in 2014 and 2017, was named to the AL All-Star team three times, and led MLB in ERA in 2017 (2.25). He still looked like an ace in 2018, putting together a 20-win season with a 2.89 ERA over 215 innings pitched.
The Yankees also likely have pretty good idea at where Kluber is at health wise and what he’s potentially capable of. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post explains, Yankees director of health and performance Eric Cressey has been overseeing Kluber’s rehab.
#Yankees always had a HUGE edge in knowledge with Kluber. Eric Cressey is overseeing Kluber’s rehab from a shoulder injury that kept him to 1GS last yr and Cressey is also the #Yankees director of health and performance.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 16, 2021
Kluber is without question a gamble at $11 million, but it’s a gamble that a team with resources and a win-now determination is absolutely worth taking.
The Yankees are currently projected by FanGraphs to comfortably lead the AL in team WAR. And if Kluber can return to *anything* like his 2014-18 form, joining Gerrit Cole and company in the Yankees rotation? Sheesh. That’s a scary thought, and would be very bad news for the rest of the AL.