Kluber trade becoming less likely by the day
Time running out for Dodgers or Brewers to deal for Tribe ace
Corey Kluber is poised to report for his ninth Spring Training with the Indians, unless the Dodgers or Brewers make a more compelling offer for the ace right-hander in the two weeks before camps open in Arizona and Florida.
While a Kluber trade remains possible, sources say the chances are diminishing by the day. It is now more likely than not that Kluber will remain with Cleveland as the new season begins.
The Padres had spoken with the Indians about Kluber earlier this offseason, sources say, but San Diego general manager A.J. Preller appears more focused now on other pursuits -- including free agent Manny Machado. But the Padres had not met in person with Machado as of Wednesday afternoon, an indication that the four-time All-Star is not close to deciding where he will sign.
The Indians entered the offseason with an eye toward reducing their payroll, and they have done so without trading Kluber. The Indians are on pace to begin the season with a payroll of around $115 million, a reduction of roughly $20 million from Opening Day 2018, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
However, the possibility of a Kluber trade can't be dismissed until the Indians make separate moves to address their shortage of outfield depth. Industry sources have expected the Indians to obtain an outfielder in any Kluber deal, such as the Dodgers' Alex Verdugo.
For now, the Indians' projected starting outfield is some combination of Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin and Greg Allen.
The Dodgers have sufficient prospect depth to make a major trade, for Kluber or Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Either move would energize the Dodgers' fan base following the news that superstar free agent Bryce Harper apparently won't sign with the club.
Meanwhile, sources say the Brewers remain involved in trade discussions for top starting pitchers. If they don't acquire Kluber, it remains possible that Milwaukee could strike a deal to acquire Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.