The Indians Have A Corey Kluber Problem

Indians pitchers and catchers have reported to Goodyear, Arizona, with two time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber donning a loose-fitting workout jersey incorporating an abysmal drawing of a cactus. The Indians entered the offseason with an interest in trading Corey Kluber beyond simply performing due diligence on his league wide valuation and attempting to find an immense offer. No, trading Kluber was at a point a likelihood. Perhaps unfortunately, the market for Kluber did not pan out as the Indians expected.

This is not a larger discussion of Corey Kluber’s trade value which has been covered and extensively on a number of pieces at including:  league wide value, diverse packages, arsenal adjustments, and a Dodgers Package.  While the above may suggest Indians writers such as this author were simply looking for content there were real legs to Kluber availability. Corey Kluber was on the block.

The motivation be it salary, Kluber being incredibly cheap as it relates to production or concerns over diminishing skills, Corey Kluber was on the block. As if this was not enough to create a schism between Corey Kluber and the Indians organization, even a level of distrust, the entire offseason appeared to be a continuous move towards a post Kluber organization.

One of the five best pitchers in organization history signed to a significantly below market deal and coming off another elite season, a team continuing to contend for a World Series was shopping Corey Kluber. It would be difficult not to carry some level of resentment. While one might spit the old trope “its a business”, business is often very personal and the 2018 offseason registered on that spectrum.

Indeed, Kluber has dropped the appropriate cliches regarding baseball as a business a conversation with Paul Hoynes:

“I totally understand that,” said Kluber. “That’s part of running a baseball team. You have to listen to how other teams value players and that then gives you a value for guys.”

Yet, Corey Kluber and Jason Kipnis, both actively shopped must now return to a team they do not entirely recognize.

In his corner of the Indians locker room over the past few seasons, Corey Kluber has been surrounded by Yan Gomes, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Josh Tomlin to one side; and Andrew Miller on the other. But who returns?

Chisenhall? A short trot down I-76 in Pittsburgh.

Tomlin? On a different Great Lake coast in Milwaukee.

Miller? A few states west in St. Louis.

Lastly, and most importantly, Yan Gomes was traded to the Washington Nationals on November 30th, 2018. One of the first major transactions of the offseason for any team was that of Corey Kluber’s friend and home plate confidante.

When Corey Kluber won his first Cy Young Award in 2015 he brought along those he appreciated most to New York for the ceremony, including catcher Yan Gomes. Of course, Gomes spoke glowingly of their relationship in the above article about his compadre:

“It almost felt like I was winning the award. His work ethic really showed how much he grew this year.”

Kluber has thrown 950 innings to Gomes and rarely pitched to another receiver because of their familiarity and their success together. Thus, while his name was bandied about from MLB Network to ESPN to Kluber also had to watch his friend and locker room mate be traded to Washington.

If the mass exodus of Kluber’s pals was not enough, Kluber’s existing teammates were doing Twitter trade scenarios and involved in less than academic discussions about player value. IMG_0368.jpg

While Bauer can provide context and in some way illustrate that this was a hypothetical discussion of player value as it relates to modern baseball, it certainly does not appear to add any value relationally.  Perhaps this is the product of Bauer having to rationalize his own experience as trade asset in an often technocratic business. Yet, for Kluber it is but another example of an organization that appears ready to move on from the organizational great.

This author does not pretend to be a psychologist or psychoanalyst by any means but rather to demonstrate the mess that has grown around one of the organizations most valued contributors.

In Goodyear, Arizona, Kluber will throw to Roberto Perez instead of his longtime catcher Yan Gomes. Kluber will stand in the bullpen next to a rotation mate who spent his free time on twitter discussing the merits of his trade. Finally, Kluber will sit in front of the press again and be asked about his thoughts about the offseason and being on the market. Perhaps, there is a cost to offseason window-shopping after all.

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