MLB rumors: Padres reportedly jump in Corey Kluber mix, and they have the farm system to swing a trade
Kluber is the latest high-end starter the Padres have expressed interest in this offseason
The San Diego Padres have the game's best and deepest farm system and they seem dead set on using it to acquire a high-end starter. Earlier this offseason they were connected to Mets righty Noah Syndergaard and Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman, among others. Now they've been connected to Indians righty Corey Kluber.
According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Padres and Indians are "engaged in discussions" about a trade that would send Kluber to San Diego, the team that originally drafted him. It does not appear a trade is imminent, however. Here are more details, via Morosi:
The Padres can offer what the Indians may need to justify moving Kluber: Major League talent. One source said Cleveland's return in the deal could include one or more from a group of three young Major Leaguers: outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe and catcher Austin Hedges.
Cleveland likely would obtain at least one prospect as well, although shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and lefty MacKenzie Gore (San Diego's top two prospects) are not expected to be involved in a Kluber deal.
The Indians, despite slashing more than $20 million off their payroll this winter, remain the AL Central favorites and are on the short list of World Series contenders as long as Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco anchor the rotation with Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez headlining the offense. Trading Kluber for prospects -- and only prospects -- doesn't make much sense. Cleveland has to capitalize on its current window, not build for the future.
On the surface, a trade package led by Margot, Renfroe, or Hedges would be awfully underwhelming for Cleveland. The 26-year-old Renfroe does have five years of team control though, and he's hit 52 home runs with a 107 OPS+ the last two seasons. The Indians need outfielders and Renfroe would fill a need. Margot, 24, is loaded with tools and Hedges, 26, is a standout defensive gloveman who's socked 32 home runs as a catcher the last two years.
In a vacuum, there are reasons for the Indians to pursue Margot, Renfroe, and Hedges individually. As the centerpiece(s) in a Kluber trade though? I can't really see it. Even with a very good prospect like Tatis or Gore included the trade, it would qualify as quantity more than quality. When you're trading someone like Kluber, you need to get the best possible talent in return and not worry about filling specific roster needs. Get the talent and sort it out later.
The Dodgers and Yankees are among the other teams to express interest in Kluber this offseason and both can offer higher quality young big leaguers than the Padres. Los Angeles could front a package with MLB-ready tippy top prospect Alex Verdugo. The Yankees could peddle Miguel Andujar or even Gleyber Torres. Neither team can match the Padres' prospect depth, however. The prospects might entice the Indians more than the young big leaguers.
Among San Diego's top 30 prospects per MLB.com, five of the top 14 have already played at Triple-A and 13 of the top 30 have played at Double-A, meaning they're close to MLB ready. Trading top prospects for an over-30 player like Kluber may not seem to make sense for a rebuilding team like the Padres, but you can't keep every prospect, and Kluber would advance the rebuild significantly. The trick is knowing which prospects to keep and which prospects to trade.
Kluber, 32, had a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 215 innings this past season, his fifth straight season with 200-plus innings and 200-plus strikeouts. He's owed $17 million in 2019 with club options for 2020 ($17.5 million) and 2021 ($18 million). The Padres drafted Kluber in the fourth round of the 2007 draft and sent him to the Indians in the Ryan Ludwick/Jake Westbrook three-team deal at the 2010 trade deadline.
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