Angels Considering Corey Kluber – MLB Trade Rumors

The Angels have already signed Tyler Anderson this offseason, but the team might not yet be done adding starting pitching, as Corey Kluber is among the names still under consideration, The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  Kluber is one of the more prominent arms still remaining on a thinned-out list of free agent starters, and MLBTR rated Kluber 48th on our ranking of the winter’s top 50 free agents.

Entering his age-37 season and what would be his 13th big league campaign, Kluber tossed 164 innings with the Rays last year — an important number considering that injuries limited the right-hander to only 116 2/3 innings total from 2019-21.  In addition to the durability, Kluber also had the lowest walk rate (3.0%) of any pitcher in baseball who threw at least 70 innings, while posting a 4.34 ERA/3.85 SIERA and doing a very good job of limiting hard contact.

While control and soft contact were also big parts of Kluber’s skillset in his heyday as Cleveland’s ace, he has experienced a big dropoff in missed bats.  Despite a chase rate that was among the best in the game, Kluber’s 20.2% strikeout percentage was well below the league average.  Kluber was never a big power pitcher even in his prime, but his fastball velocity dropped down to 88.9mph, and his once-deadly curveball was a borderline below-average pitch in 2022.

Kluber still looks like he can be a positive contributor to a rotation, and with another year removed from the injuries that sidetracked his career, the righty might even be able to take things to a slightly higher level in 2023.  The Rays took some extra caution with Kluber last season, as he only twice pitched as many as seven innings, and only hit the 90-pitch plateau in six of his 31 starts.

The Angels could continue this usage, as signing Kluber or another starter would seemingly indicate that Anaheim is considering going back to a six-man rotation.  The rotation currently lines up as Shohei Ohtani, Anderson, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, and Reid Detmers, and a sixth pitcher would help keep everyone fresh (in particular Ohtani, given his dual workload as a hitter).

Kluber’s age and injury history limited him to one-year contracts in each of the last two offseasons, as he signed with the Yankees for $11MM prior to the 2021 campaign and then $8MM last winter with the Rays.  Such a deal would line up with the Angels’ general preference for shorter-term and lower-cost deals with starting pitchers, though the three-year, $39MM deal with Anderson (which also had draft compensation attached) represented a slight stretch beyond the Halos’ usual comfort zone.

Since the Angels also haven’t exceeded the Competitive Balance Tax threshold since 2004, it is notable that a Kluber contract in that $8-$11MM range would get the team even closer to the CBT line. Roster Resource projects Los Angeles for a tax number of just under $220.3MM.  However, Angels GM Perry Minasian has said that ownership hasn’t given him instruction about staying under the tax line, so the luxury tax might not be a huge consideration this winter.  Even if it’s likelier than the team might just exceed the threshold rather than blow past it (say, to $253MM and the first penalty tier), the Angels have been pretty aggressively checking the market.  In addition to Anderson, the Halos also signed Carlos Estevez and Brandon Drury in free agency, plus they swung trades to add Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela.

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