The Texas Rangers’ decision to decline their $18 million option to Corey Kluber opens the door for the Yankees to add rotation depth.
The two-time Cy Young winner and three time All Star has gone through his struggles with injuries in recent years, starting with a fractured wrist in 2019, followed by oblique tightness upon his return. Kluber was traded to the Rangers last offseason, and in his first start with them, he tore his teres major muscle and has not pitched since then.
When he was healthy, he was a top 5 pitcher in the league. If he can stay healthy, Kluber can be a very important piece in the rotation and he provides a strong veteran presence for the younger pitchers and the clubhouse as a whole. The Yankees should not shy away from him, he’s a low risk, very high reward caliber player.
The Yankees have a lot of question marks in their rotation behind Cole. Happ will not be back, Paxton and Tanaka are both free agents. They will need to add multiple starting pitchers and Kluber should be in the mix. A rotation of Cole, Severino, Garcia, Schimidt and Montgomery/German will not cut it in the postseason. Kluber appeared in the playoffs from 2016-2018, losing the World Series in 2016. Adding a once proven elite pitcher with the playoff experience he has is a step in the right direction.
Kluber will be 35 in April and has started 8 games since 2019. He likely will not be asking for a lot in free agency, but there will be a market for him. A one or two year incentive heavy deal would be ideal and makes sense for both sides. Kluber will have an opportunity to rebuild his value and have a chance to test free agency again before retirement. He also has experience working with pitching coach Matt Blake in the past.
In 2021, he will be three years removed from his last full season. While he may not be as dominant as he once was, he can still be a viable veteran option to complement Cole and another starter the Yankees bring in. He has yet to win a ring in his career and the Yankees provide a solid opportunity to do so. It can’t hurt to bring a proven competitor like him into the organization considering he will likely not be demanding a lot of money, just an opportunity to show he can still perform.