Corey Kluber

Could the Cubs use Kyle Schwarber to land Corey Kluber?


Could the Cubs use Kyle Schwarber to land Corey Kluber?

Any hypothetical major trade scenario involving the Cubs this offseason will likely involve Kyle Schwarber.

ESPN's Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield took the bait and speculated on trades they would like to see. Schwarber was involved in a pair of theoretical deals that will likely entice Cubs fans.

The first proposed deal was the Indians sending two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to the Cubs for a package centered around Schwarber. The premise of the trade makes sense on the surface, as explained in the article.

With Jon Lester easing into a new chapter of his career, the Cubs need a No. 1 starter and have a deep roster of big-league position players. The Indians have a surplus of top-end starters but are thin at other positions. This is a good match.

Kluber has three years left on his current contract totaling $40.5 million and two club options on the end of that.

Of course, the Cubs would have to send more than Schwarber to make it happen. Doolittle threw out Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. as potential additions to the trade. Happ and Schwarber represent two players not crucial to the Cubs' success that haven't always had a clear role with the team. Kluber would be a much-needed addition to the starting rotation.

On the flip side, Schoenfield suggests the Cubs trade Schwarber to Houston for a young pitcher. Two named are Cionel Perez and Framber Valdez. Perez is 22 and made his MLB debut last season out of the bullpen. The Cuban lefty raced through the minors after signing before the 2017 season. Valdez, 25, had a 2.19 ERA in eight appearances (five starts) in his MLB debut with the Astros last year.

Both pitchers wouldn't bring name recognition for an established player like Schwarber, but would fill a team need. Would the Cubs jump at either of these moves involving Schwarber? The Winter Meetings are just around the corner.

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Starting-pitcher availability alert: Would the Indians ever trade Corey Kluber to the White Sox?


Starting-pitcher availability alert: Would the Indians ever trade Corey Kluber to the White Sox?

That siren you hear is the starting-pitcher availability alert. And it's coming from Cleveland.

In a surprising turn of events, the White Sox might not have to look far to locate some available, controllable starting pitchers, with ESPN's Buster Olney reporting Friday that the division-rival Indians will be listening to trade offers for the likes of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco this winter.

The White Sox, in the market for starting pitching considering the pair of holes in their starting rotation, would figure to be interested.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and the Tribe could very well have no interest in sharing a dance with a fellow member of the AL Central, a division they've dominated over the past three seasons.

In fact, the two teams have made just one trade in the past 24 years — who could forget the great Andy Cannizaro deal of 2009? — and only four in the time this writer has been alive.

But oh what a thought to see either of those two very, very good pitchers come to the South Side. Kluber's under team control for three more seasons. Carrasco for two. That might not line up exactly with where the White Sox are in their rebuilding process, but the hope is that the transition from rebuilding to contending comes within the next couple years. And while there's ample starting-pitching depth in the organization to forecast a homegrown rotation consisting of Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning, it'd be a mighty different story, in terms of confidence for future success, to add a proven commodity to that mix.

Kluber has been one of the game's finest starting pitchers for the last half decade. He's a two-time AL Cy Young winner (2014 and 2017), with a pair of top-10 finishes in there, too. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see him add another when voting is announced later this month for this year's award following his 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in an AL-best 215 innings during the 2018 regular season. Kluber was also strong during the 2016 postseason, when his Indians made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. In six starts during that playoff run, he allowed seven earned runs over 34.1 innings.

During the last five regular seasons, Kluber's got a terrific 2.85 ERA, something the White Sox know very well, as he's got an even better 2.80 ERA in 24 career appearances against the South Siders.

Carrasco has also put up stellar numbers, with a 3.40 ERA over the past four seasons as a full-time starter (he had a 2.55 ERA in 40 appearances in 2014, only 14 of which were starts). He led baseball with 18 wins and finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2017, then turned in a 3.38 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 192 innings this past season. His career numbers against the White Sox? A 3.98 ERA in 25 appearances, two of which were complete-game efforts.

It all sounds rather tantalizing if you're looking to inject some big additions into the South Side rebuilding project. But even after getting past the fact that the Indians would be rather foolish to deal their perennial Cy Young candidate within the AL Central, you have to consider the price. Just look to the White Sox own trade of Chris Sale, one of the game's elite pitchers, to see what it cost the Boston Red Sox. With Kopech on the mend from Tommy John surgery and Yoan Moncada coming off one of the most strikeout-heavy seasons in baseball history, White Sox fans might not be as high on that return package as they once were, but realize it still cost at least two of the best prospects in the game (and two other guys were a part of that package, as well).

In other words, if you want someone like Kluber, you might have to give up someone like Cease.

But the point in all this is: Every offseason, players become available that weren't expected to become available, and these opportunities can turn teams into contenders. Look at what happened last offseason with the Milwaukee Brewers' trade for Christian Yelich. Grabbing that kind of controllable star gave the Brewers an MVP candidate for the next several seasons and brought them, in his first year on the team, within a win of the World Series. The White Sox might not be one starting pitcher away from going from 100 losses to the ALCS, but with these pitchers under team control for multiple seasons, it makes the 2020 or 2021 rotations look that much stronger, no matter what you think of the current crop of young arms on the South Side and in the system.

Rick Hahn talked about being "opportunistic" this offseason. It's opportunities like this — ones not based solely on the upcoming season — that he was referring to. Their mere existence doesn't guarantee a deal of this magnitude or even mutual interest between two clubs. But you never know what opportunities might come along.

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Another dominant effort from Corey Kluber shows rebuilding White Sox will have to solve Indians pitching to become future kings of AL Central


Another dominant effort from Corey Kluber shows rebuilding White Sox will have to solve Indians pitching to become future kings of AL Central

The best part of the White Sox final six games of the 2018 season? They won’t have to face Corey Kluber again.

Kluber’s dominance over the South Siders continued Monday night, the White Sox offense silenced against a Cleveland Indians pitching staff that could enter October as the American League’s most fearsome. Four Indians starters have hit the 200-strikeout mark this season, the first time a single staff has ever had that happen in baseball history. And a bullpen that’s underachieved statistically after a big-spending offseason still has Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to worry about.

Kluber added to his own big strikeout total with 11 against the White Sox. In four starts against the White Sox this season, Kluber racked up 39 strikeouts and allowed just three earned runs in 28 innings of work. He’s got 184 strikeouts against them in his career, more than any other opponent.

“Kluber did the same thing he’s continued to do,” White Sox skipper Rick Renteria said. “He attacks the strike zone, stays below the zone, ball fades out, works both sides of the plate, runs balls in, catches you locks you up, mixes his pitches well. He got us quite a few times and he just did what he does.

“He’s a Cy Young type pitcher. I think with guys like that, when you have certain opportunities — and you don’t get very many — you’ve got to be able to get at least one point across.”

This is no surprise, of course, one of the league’s top arms — a two-time Cy Young winner, including last year — having so much success against a lineup that’s missed the playoffs every season he’s been in the major leagues. But it shows how tricky it will be for the rebuilding White Sox to ascend to the top of the division. Not only do all the young hitters on the rise through the farm system need to figure out how to succeed at the big league level, they need to do it against some of the game’s best pitchers.

Kluber is under team control for another three seasons, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer for another two and Mike Clevinger for a whopping five seasons. The White Sox likely aren’t tailoring their rebuilding effort to the current kings of the Central. But they’ll one day need to overtake the Indians to get to the level they want to reach, and this collection of pitchers isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

This season alone, Indians pitchers have turned in eight double-digit strikeout performances against the White Sox.

Of course, the fearsome foursome of Cleveland pitchers should also give the White Sox plenty of hope. There’s a crowded list of names angling for spot in the rotation of the future on the South Side, which speaks to the pitching depth Rick Hahn has amassed in the farm system. Perhaps the likes of Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning can form a similarly talented group down the road.

Cleveland's captured three straight division titles. If the White Sox can form their own dazzling rotation, they'd be in position to attempt the same kind of feat.

But until that day comes, the Indians’ stellar starting staff will serve as a constant reminder of who the White Sox will need to pass on their planned journey to the top of the division and perennial contention.

The AL Central goes through Cleveland — for now, and perhaps for a while.