Seattle Mariners: To pursue or not pursue Corey Kluber

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 26: Corey Kluber of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Rockies. Kluber may be a Mariners free agent target. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 26: Corey Kluber of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Rockies. Kluber may be a Mariners free agent target. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Corey Kluber, a potential Mariners target underhand tosses to first base.
CLEVELAND, OH – APRIL 20: Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians throws to first base against the Braves. Kluber is a potential Mariners target. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Mariners should not invest too heavily in Kluber because he has not pitched an entire season since 2018

As mentioned earlier, Kluber has dealt with injuries in the past couple of seasons. He has only pitched 36.2 innings in 2019 and 2020 combined. This is a discouraging sign for the Mariners organization, and quite frankly the entire league. The Rangers took a chance on Kluber bouncing back by trading for him and that backfired.

Corey Kluber is also 34-years-old and is not going to get any younger. But at the same time, Kluber was a late bloomer considering his All-Star seasons were in his early 30’s. According to FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity has been on a downward trend.

  • 2013: 93.8mph
  • 2014: 94.6mph
  • 2015: 93.6mph
  • 2016: 93.4mph
  • 2017: 92.9mph
  • 2018: 92.4mph
  • 2019: 92.3mph (35.2 innings)
  • 2020: 92.1mph (one inning)

Outside of the fact that he has missed time, and his fastball average velocity is slightly dropping, there is not a whole lot of glaring numbers to look at. 2019 and 2020 numbers are not of sufficient size to compare to his Cy Young like seasons with the Indians. The start of the 2018 season is somewhat of a red flag because, in his seven starts, he recorded a 5.80 ERA. Kluber was able to maintain a high strikeout rate but was giving up a lot more hits compared to usual. At the same time, Kluber was not able to finish the season and lower his ERA which he could have done.

But, what we do know is that the Mariners pitching staff already has competition and Kluber might not be worth the money.

Current starting pitcher options ranked:

  1. Marco Gonzales
  2. Justus Sheffield
  3. Justin Dunn
  4. Yusei Kikuchi
  5. Nick Margevicius
  6. Ljay Newsome

The current starting rotation will not frankly lead us to a postseason, based on past performances. But, Gonzales and Sheffield made huge improvements in 2020 and are looking like reliable pitchers for the Mariners. Dunn also improved which is promising. Margevicius filled in nicely. Newsome was a spot starter. And Kikuchi still struggled and could be the last piece of the puzzle if he can turn things around.

Kluber would be a nice addition but the expectation is that he will be in high demand. When demand is high, the player has the leverage to bargain and get the best deal. The Mariners are in a spot where they need another really good starting pitcher, or a few more safety picks for depth. The Mariners have an opportunity to bring in an ace like Trevor Bauer and someone of his caliber is worth the money.

Kluber on the other hand may be asking for too much, as a player who has barely played the last two seasons. Kluber is an extremely high-risk player but has the potential to be a star player like he was in 2016-2018.