Corey Kluber trade rumors: Dodgers, Indians talks intensifying at MLB winter meetings

Despite winning back-to-back-to-back AL Central titles and the 2016 AL pennant, the Cleveland Indians are looking to trim payroll this offseason, and they already moved catcher Yan Gomes to the Nationals in a salary-clearing trade.

Since the start of the offseason it has been reported the Indians would listen to trade offers for their vaunted starting pitchers and now, with the Winter Meetings underway, talks about a deal sending two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to the Dodgers are picking up steam.

Carlos Carrasco recently signed an absurdly team-friendly extension, which presumably took him off the trade block. That leaves Kluber and Trevor Bauer as expensive starters who could be moved. In fact, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the Indians will trade either Kluber or Bauer. Not may trade, will trade.

The Dodgers seem to be a natural trade fit for Kluber. Los Angeles is looking for another high-end starter and they are loaded with outfielders. Cleveland definitely needs outfield help. They're currently slated to go into next season with Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin, and Greg Allen in the outfield. Yeah. They could use an outfielder or two.

At the moment, the Los Angeles outfield depth chart looks something like this:

  1. Cody Bellinger (Max Muncy has taken over at first base)
  2. Yasiel Puig
  3. Joc Pederson
  4. Matt Kemp
  5. Chris Taylor (can play the infield)
  6. Enrique Hernandez (can play the infield)
  7. Alex Verdugo
  8. Andrew Toles

It stands to reason the Dodgers don't want to move Bellinger and the Indians don't want either Puig or Kemp as the centerpiece of a Kluber package because both are expensive and one year away from free agency. Pederson is only two years away from free agency and that likely takes him out of the running to headline a Kluber package.

Verdugo makes perfect sense as a trade chip to net Kluber. MLB.com ranks him as the 32nd best prospect in baseball and their scouting report calls him "(one) of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball." The 22-year-old has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A and has authored a .321/.389/.452 batting line with 46 doubles, 16 homers, and nearly as many walks (86) as strikeouts (97) at the level. Verdugo is blocked in Los Angeles but he could step right into Cleveland's lineup.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays
The Dodgers have reportedly ramped up their pursuit of Corey Kluber. USATSI

Of course, it will likely take more than Verdugo to get Kluber, a capital-A Ace who is signed affordably the next three years. Assuming his 2019 and 2020 club options are exercised, Kluber will be paid only $52.5 million the next three seasons. That is a bargain rate for a pitcher as good as Kluber. Verdugo and a young arm to potentially replace Kluber in the rotation seems like a logical starting point for a trade package.

You can be sure the Indians will shop Kluber around to make sure they get the best possible deal. The Mets and Yankees have both shown trade interest in Kluber this winter and don't figure to go away quietly. On paper, the Dodgers made the most sense because they offer Verdugo and other quality pieces.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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