The Mariners should sign Corey Kluber because he is still Corey Kluber
Although I just shared reasons why Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners should not sign Kluber, there are also reasons why he would be a good investment. The story of the Seattle 2020 season is the young group of players showed up in numerous ways. Kyle Lewis is leading the ROY race, Evan White and J.P. Crawford won Gold Gloves, some bullpen pitchers had good 2020 seasons and contributions from others.
What is still missing in this Jerry Dipoto rebuild which is starting to look better after every season is a veteran presence. Kyle Seager is the only Mariners play right now to be born before 1990. Having an abundance of young players with many more on their way in 2021 and 2022 is a good problem to have, but having a good balance can change the team.
Seager seems to be a great influence on the young offense as a 10-season tenured Seattle Mariners player, but there is not much playoff experience in the team. Corey Kluber is 34-years-old, who has two Cy Young’s under his belt. On top of that, Kluber was a part of four postseasons with the Indians. In 2016, he helped lead the Indians to a World Series appearance where they ended up losing to the Chicago Cubs in seven games.
At some point, the Mariners are going to sign or trade for veteran players who can help the team win and build a winning culture. Kluber could be the first of many for Dipoto to help the Mariners team develop into a playoff team.
Going back to his numbers, he has not really declined despite his age. Kluber was a late bloomer and peaked in his early 30’s and the only thing that has prevented him from being an elite free-agent target is the injuries. The 2019 injury he sustained was a matter of bad luck. Kluber fractured his ulna after being hit by a scorching line drive off the bat.
Kluber was able to recover quite well from the ulna fracture, which is basically your forearm. His 2020 was obviously uneventful after missing the entire season to a shoulder problem. But prior to Kluber’s shoulder injury, he looked good in summer workouts with the Rangers and was averaging a 92.1mph fastball in the one inning he did pitch in 2020. I still find it impressive that Kluber can throw above 90mph with a great mix of offspeed pitches even as a 34-year-old.
As stated on the previous page, the Mariners are not in dire need of starting pitchers, but it is an area that Dipoto could get an upgrade in. I would much rather sign a player like Trevor Bauer who had a career year, but he will be one of the most expensive players this offseason. The Mariners might be able to afford him, but Dipoto has to weigh the costs of committing to one player, as opposed to signing multiple this offseason.
I would also think Charlie Morton would be a safer pick than Corey Kluber because Morton has proven his stuff is still good the past couple of years even as a 37-year old. Morton had an outstanding 2020 postseason. Kluber might have the better resume, but missing the last two seasons is a huge risk to bet on.
The inherent risk of signing Kluber is obvious, but the potential reward is impossible to ignore. If Kluber is at his best, he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the MLB and would surely lead the Mariners starting rotation. Just imagine a Cy Young Corey Kluber followed by a growing Marco Gonzales and Justus Sheffield. That seems like a fantasy, but it is not so much of a fantasy as you may think.
If Dipoto can get a bargain one or two-year deal with Kluber, it will absolutely be worth taking the risk on. But if Kluber is asking for a three to a four-year deal, with an annual salary of $10m+, I would think it is a no-deal for the Mariners. It will be an interesting offseason as I imagine Dipoto being extremely busy as the Mariners’ future looks brighter and brighter.