Let’s hope that Corey Kluber’s injury isn’t as serious as the initial diagnosis pegs it to be. To see the Indians' ace take a line drive struck by Marlins right fielder Brian Anderson off his pitching arm Wednesday night in Miami was as scary as it was gut wrenching.
If the initial diagnosis -- non-displaced fracture of the right ulna -- holds, this is an injury that will reverberate throughout the entire sport. In that way, so many things may have changed in an instant regarding the overall playoff landscape, especially so in the American League.
Here’s a quick rundown:
1. The Indians could end up being motivated to sell, which could mean right-hander Trevor Bauer (who is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season) -- and perhaps others -- could be an impact pickup for a contender in either league. This is the staggering reality that Cleveland’s front office now must consider. With two other Cleveland starters, Mike Clevinger and Danny Salazar, sidelined indefinitely with injuries, a rotation that could have separated the Indians from its competitors is diminished.
2. The Twins suddenly see a clearer path to winning the AL Central and ending a string of three straight first-place finishes by the Indians. Seeing how the Twins have the AL’s best record (18-10) through play Wednesday, things were already fairly clear.
3. The Twins could be more motivated buyers in the wake of Kluber's injury. They’re leading the AL in a bunch of offensive categories, and could suddenly look to be active in the pursuit of free agents Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel.
4. The Red Sox may not pay for their slow start after all, since one of the two AL Wild Card berths may be a bit more in play than it was before Kluber went down. The possibility of the AL East producing three postseason teams -- Rays, Yankees, Red Sox -- seems more realistic.
5. In the end, every team is impacted. What would Bauer do for the Phillies' or Brewers' postseason chances? If the Indians do decide to reshape their roster, that would impact every other team that might be weighing the market for its own young players.
If you’re wondering how one player could impact so many things, consider who that player is. In the five seasons before 2019, Kluber ranked behind only Max Scherzer in innings pitched, starts and wins. He’s first in complete games in this stretch and fourth in ERA for starters (2.85).
He’s one of the cornerstones of the Cleveland baseball rebirth, and the Indians emphasized that a timetable for his return is unknown. All this speculation could be moot if the injury isn’t as bad as feared.
(Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson suffered a similar injury last May and missed the remainder of the season. He was throwing live BP by August.)
This isn’t just about the Indians, either, although obviously that’s where things begin. Baseball is better in so many ways when Kluber is taking the mound every five days.
This sport may not have a better competitor and there may not be anyone who more perfectly reflects what every team would like its biggest star to be. After the game Thursday, Indians manager Terry Francona said his thoughts were with Kluber and nothing else.
“You always figure that we’ll figure something out as a team,” he said. “But you worry about the guys because you care about them. It looked ugly. You just worry about guys.”