Tribe prez disputes 'intensifying' Kluber talks

Dodgers among clubs showing interest in two-time Cy Young winner, but no deal is imminent

December 10th, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- Although it took little time for rumors regarding a potential trade to spread on the first day of the Winter Meetings, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti aren't rushing to make any decisions.

"You try to use the meetings to help increase the frequency of interactions with teams, but not change your decision-making dynamic," Chernoff said. "That can be hard when you're outside of your element. We're usually in our office doing this, so you have to make sure you're creating those safeguards to keep your same decision-making principles."

MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Monday morning that talk surrounding Kluber had been intensifying among multiple teams, including the Dodgers, but both Chernoff and Antonetti downplayed the report.

"I think we were reading one of those [tweets] on the [television] screen," Antonetti said. "We were sitting here eating lunch by ourselves going, 'Oh, really. Who is intensifying those talks?' I'm not sure who is having those talks intensified."

The trade talks may not have "intensified," but Antonetti did say that the discussions are happening more often through text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings.

"I do think with all of us being in the same building and with everyone really focused on transactions, it does pick up the frequency of interactions between teams," Antonetti said. "And the calendar. We're later in the offseason than we were a few weeks ago, so teams are trying to check things off their lists."

Kluber, 32, pitched to a 20-7 record and a 2.89 ERA while valued at 5.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2018. Despite those numbers, the Indians are looking to trim their payroll and are seeking outfielders. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner will make $17 million in 2019, with team options for $17.5 million in '20 and $18 million in '21.

"Ownership's invested incredible resources into our team over the course of the past few seasons to try to help push us to a World Series championship," Antonetti said. "At some point, you have to make sure you have sustainable finances that work for the long term. And we're in the process of working through exactly what that will be."

With the Dodgers among the clubs reportedly interested in Kluber, a trade involving the right-hander could get Cleveland some much-needed depth in the outfield.

The Dodgers are loaded with outfielders, and , the team's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, could be a perfect fit for the Tribe. The 22-year-old slashed .329/.391/.472 at Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2018, is Major League-ready and, most importantly for the Indians, is cost-controlled.

"So we're cognizant of where we are age-wise," Antonetti said when asked if a younger roster was the team's goal. "I think oftentimes what happens is a roster gets older, it also comes with less control. So in a sense, one of our goals, as I think I've shared, is to make sure that we have a chance to contend for an AL Central title in 2019, but also position the organization for success beyond that. One way to do that is to infuse players with longer-term control into the organization. Typically, these players are going to be younger players than older players."

Morosi also reported that both the Yankees and Brewers could be contenders in a Kluber trade. In keeping with Cleveland's theme of wanting young talent and filling a necessary need in the outfield, New York's top prospect, Estevan Florial, and Milwaukee's second-ranked prospect, Corey Ray, could both be of interest, though neither is Major League ready. Florial hasn't been promoted past Class A Advanced Tampa, and Ray spent 2018 in Double-A Biloxi.

These early rumors do not mean that is off the market. Although Kluber is starting to make the headlines now, anything can change throughout the next few days at the Winter Meetings.