Rangers trade for 2-time Cy winner Kluber

December 17th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have acquired a proven No. 1 starter for their starting rotation. 

They just need right-hander  to be fully recovered from a broken right forearm and strained oblique muscle that sidelined him for most of 2019. If so, the two-time Cy Young Award winner could fit at the top of the Rangers rotation for at least the next two seasons. 

Kluber, who took home the Cy Young Award in 2014 and '17 and won 20 games in '18, was acquired from the Indians on Sunday for outfielder Delino DeShields and reliever Emmanuel Clase. The Rangers have never had a Cy Young winner in club history, and their last 20-game winner was Rick Helling in 1998.

"Before last year, Corey was one of the elite pitchers in the game for an extended stretch," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Last year was a little bit of a lost year for him but we think the reasons for it don't necessarily give us pause. In some ways the time off may have been a good thing, a blessing in disguise that he had thrown a lot of innings [418] in the previous two years."

Kluber joins a Rangers rotation that already has Mike Minor and Lance Lynn at the top and Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles at the back end.

Daniels said this is as good as he has felt about the Rangers rotation going into Spring Training since he became general manager 14 years ago.

"It sets up pretty well," Daniels said. "Now we have to go out and perform. This group has a track record and pedigree. We are excited to see them work together. This group has a chance to go out and give us both quantity and quality innings. We should be in the ballgame every night."

Kluber missed most of last season with a fractured ulna bone in his right arm after getting hit by a line drive on May 1. He was close to returning in August, after making three Minor League starts of a rehab assignment but was set back by a strained oblique muscle and never made it back to the Indians.

"Broke his arm and it healed naturally," Daniels said. "There was no surgery. It just took time and it healed up. So, that's not a factor. Then he had the oblique strain in August from just trying to ramp up quickly and get ready. They were in a pennant drive."

Despite the injury, the Indians still picked up his $17.5 million option for the 2020 season. Kluber also had an $18 million team option for 2021. That's now a vesting option that locks in if he pitches 160 innings next season and does not end the year on the injured list. The two teams split the cost of a $1 million assignment bonus Kluber was owed should he be traded.

Daniels said the Rangers spoke to the Indians earlier in the offseason about Kluber. The Rangers spent much of last week's Winter Meetings trying to land third baseman Anthony Rendon and came up short, then went back to Texas and regrouped as a front office.

They spent Friday discussing their options and decided to split up various organizations among themselves. Assistant general manager Shiraz Rehman took the Indians and the discussions involving Kluber were revived. The talks picked up once the Rangers were willing to include Clase in the deal.

Kluber, 33, pitched at Coppell High School in the suburban town between Dallas and Fort Worth and the Padres drafted him in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft out of Stetson College. On July 31, 2010, Kluber was traded to the Indians in a three-team deal that included the Cardinals. At the time Kluber was pitching in Double-A and was projected as a potential fifth starter candidate.

It took him a few years to earn a permanent spot in the Indians rotation, but his breakthrough season came in 2014 when he developed into an 18-game winner and led the American League with a 2.45 ERA. He was rewarded with his first Cy Young Award.

From 2014 to '18, he led the American League with 83 wins and his combined 2.85 ERA was the lowest in that span. His 1.02 WHIP was the second lowest over that stretch.

He showed signs of wear at the beginning of last season, going 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in his first seven starts before suffering the injury. With the Rangers he'll be reunited with pitching coach Julio Rangel, who was a pitching instructor in the Indians organization from 2007 to '15.

"He's had some smaller things in the past but again I think that's the silver lining in missing last year," Daniels said. "I feel like that gave him some time to rest those smaller things up, and he feels like he's in a really good spot and feels really good about where he's at and is excited to get going."

DeShields was the Rangers Opening Day center fielder in three of the past four years. The Rangers had a high regard for his speed and defensive potential, but he did not develop into the impact offensive player they envisioned.

The trade leaves Danny Santana as the leading candidate to be their starting center fielder in 2020. He served as a utility player this past season and 22 of his starts came in center. Daniels said the Rangers could look for an established center fielder either through trade or free agency.

"As we sit today, Danny will get the bulk of playing time in center," Daniels said.

Clase pitched in 21 games for the Rangers and was 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings with a fastball that hit as high as 101 miles per hour.