Cleveland — Corey Kluber led by example and excellence in Cleveland. The Texas Rangers are hoping he can do the same for them.
The Indians traded the two-time Cy Young Award winner — and their unquestioned ace — over the past six seasons to the Rangers on Sunday, a blockbuster deal that could dramatically change both teams.
In exchange for 33-year-old Kluber, Cleveland received outfielder Delino DeShields and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase, a hard-throwing 21-year-old with huge potential.
The stoic and steady Kluber has been one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers since 2014, when he went 18-9 and won his first Cy Young. He got his second in 2017, going 18-4 and leading the AL with a 2.25 ERA.
But his future with the money-conscious Indians grew more uncertain last season when the club managed to stay in the playoff chase until late September despite not having him after May 1.
Kluber broke his right forearm when he was struck by a line drive during a start at Miami and never made it back. He came close to returning to the Indians rotation but suffered an oblique injury during a minor league rehab appearance that ended his comeback.
The Indians picked up his $17.5 million contract option for 2020 immediately after last season. His deal includes a club option for $18 million for 2021.
A three-time All-Star, Kluber went 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA over his nine seasons with the Indians. But beyond his impressive stats, Kluber showed Cleveland’s young pitchers what it took to be a professional with his diligent training regimen and meticulous preparation for every start.
Before getting hurt last season, Kluber was struggling and there was growing concern a high number of innings and fastballs were beginning to have a cumulative effect on him. He pitched at least 203 innings in each of the previous five seasons while recording more than 200 strikeouts in each of those seasons as well.
The Indians believe the time is right to move Kluber. Cleveland has several young solid pitchers, including Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, on its staff and have other big needs.
The blockbuster deal involving Kluber might not be the only one executed by the Indians this winter. The club could part ways with All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has turned down multiyear contract offers from the Indians in the past.
Lindor is under Cleveland’s control through the 2021 season, but because the Indians won’t be able to compete for him on the free-agent market, they might be forced to trade him to ensure they get something if he leaves.
Kluber’s exit will be a tough sell for Indians fans, who have seen the club trade CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee — also Cy Young winners — in the past.
DeShields, 27, should give Cleveland another outfield option and some speed. He hit .249 with 24 stolen bases for Texas last season.
Clase, too, has promise. He skipped the Triple-A level last season and made his big league debut with the Rangers in August, going 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA in mostly a relief role.
Texas went into this offseason wanting to bolster its rotation around returning All-Star left-hander Mike Minor and right-hander Lance Lynn, who combined for 30 wins last season while both throwing 208⅓ innings. The Rangers have now added three new starters this month.
Before the deal for Kluber, who is from Coppell, Texas, about 25 miles from the new Rangers ballpark, the team had already signed free agent right-handers Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson to multiyear deals.
A $16 million, two-year deal was completed Friday with Lyles, a week after a $28 million, three-year contract for Gibson.
The Rangers are moving next season into a $1.2 billion stadium, being built across the street from the ballpark they called home the past 26 seasons.
Texas went 78-84, then missed out on a pair of free-agent targets at the recent winter meetings, watching star pitcher Gerrit Cole and slugger Anthony Rendon sign with other teams.
Kluber gets a $1 million assignment bonus for getting traded.
Because he was dealt, his $18 million club option for 2021 would become guaranteed if he pitches 160 innings next year and is not on the injured list at the end of the season.
Bumgarner to Arizona
Longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner reached agreement with the Diamondbacks on an $85 million, five-year contract that ends his run of success in San Francisco, the Associated Press reported.
The 2014 World Series MVP still needed to pass a physical to complete the contract.
Bumgarner pitched 11 seasons for the Giants but knew his time likely had ended. He bid farewell along with retiring manager Bruce Bochy on the season’s final day.
The Giants said during the winter meetings this past week in San Diego they had remained in contact with representatives for 30-year-old Bumgarner, who helped them win World Series titles in 2010, ’12 and ’14.
The seven-time defending NL West champion Dodgers also were among the clubs interested in signing the free agent.
Bumgarner went 9-9 with a career-high 3.90 ERA in 34 starts last season. The lefty has been especially valuable in postseason play — he is 4-0 with a memorable Game 7 save and an 0.25 ERA in World Series play, and has pitched two shutouts in NL wild-card games.
Dodgers obtain Treinen
Reliever Blake Treinen and the Dodgers completed a $10 million, one-year deal.
The 31-year-old right-hander and the Dodgers reached agreement during the recent winter meetings, shortly after the Athletics declined to offer Treinen a contract.
Treinen was an All-Star in 2018 with a 0.78 ERA. But he struggled last season with a 4.91 ERA and was lost his closer’s role to Liam Hendriks.