CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber did not capture the American League Cy Young Award for his work this past season. That distinction now belongs to left-hander Blake Snell, whose brilliant performance for the Rays was well-deserving of the annual accolade unveiled Wednesday night.
What Kluber did in 2018 -- a season rewarded with a third-place finish in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- further cemented his place as one of the greatest pitchers in Cleveland history.
The franchise record book is filled with dominant arms, from Addie Joss, Bob Feller and Sudden Sam McDowell, to Luis Tiant, Carsten Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Even Cy Young himself graced a mound in Cleveland. After authoring another outstanding campaign, Kluber continued to climb Cleveland's historic ranks, finishing in the top three of AL Cy Young Award balloting for the fourth time in five years.
:: AL Cy Young Award voting totals ::
"He's one of the very best," Indians manager Terry Francona said earlier this year. "What was it, five years ago when he won his first Cy Young Award? I remember the one thing I said was, 'He hasn't done it over and over yet,' because he was young. Now, he's done it over and over and over, and it's every bit as impressive."
Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young Award with 17 first-place votes, followed by Houston's Justin Verlander (13 first-place votes) and Kluber, who finished 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA. Fellow Indians starter Trevor Bauer, a leading contender for the award before a fluke right foot injury sidelined him for six weeks down the stretch, finished sixth in the voting after going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings (28 appearances).
Kluber, a Cy Young winner in 2014 and '17, finished the season with an AL-best 215 innings. The right-hander joined Snell (21-5, 1.89 ERA) as the only pitchers in the Majors to reach 20 wins, with Kluber becoming the first Tribe pitcher to achieve the milestone since 2008 (Lee). Kluber was the first Indians righty to reach 20 wins since Gaylord Perry did so in 1974.
Over his 33 starts, Kluber also piled up 222 strikeouts against 34 walks. The right-hander's rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings was the lowest in the AL -- helped by 46 1/3 consecutive walk-free frames between May and June.
Dating back to 2014, Kluber has gone 83-45 with a 2.85 ERA in 160 games, racking up 1,228 strikeouts against 223 walks in 1,091 1/3 innings. The Tribe ace reached at least 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in each of those five campaigns, the first pitcher in club history to do so. Kluber also had a 2.84 FIP, 1.02 WHIP and 17 complete games in that time period.
Kluber ranks third in Indians history in career strikeouts (1,423), trailing only Feller (2,581) and McDowell (2,159). Kluber is the best in Cleveland history (min. 1,000 innings) in strikeouts per nine innings (9.8) and winning percentage (.636) and ranks second in WHIP. Dating back to 1950, his 3.09 ERA ranks fourth overall among Tribe pitchers.
Because he finished in the top five in AL Cy Young voting again this year, Kluber's salary for 2019 increases to $17 million. The value of his two team options also increase to $17.5 million in '20 and $18 million in '21. Due in part to that escalating salary, Kluber's name has been floated in trade rumblings early this offseason.
It should be noted that, if Kluber were to be dealt, his new team would be required to decide on the team options within three days of the conclusion of the 2019 World Series. If Kluber is traded in '20, the '21 option would become a vesting option based upon at least 160 innings in '20 with no disabled list stint at the end of the season.
Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said it is hard to gauge whether the volume of conversations to date this offseason has been greater than at this point in past years.
"I think what I would reiterate," Antonetti said, "is that I think the conversations have reaffirmed for us that we have a lot of players on our roster and throughout our organization that are of interest to other teams. And I think what that allows us to do is have a lot of dialogue with other teams about potential opportunities for us to move forward as an organization and get better."