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Rob Taylor: Trading Kluber, Carrasco could be good for Indians moving forward

The ace has failed to step up on the biggest stage the past two seasons

November 09, 2018 - 7:24 pm
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By: Rob Taylor

The Cleveland Indians. The New York Yankees. The two teams unceremoniously bounced from this year’s MLB postseason in the American League Division Series.

Now, one team is looking to add two proven starting pitchers to its rotation, which would cause the other to bid farewell to two-fifths of its rotation. 

Fancred and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported in a tweet Friday afternoon that the New York Yankees met with the Cleveland Indians about possibly acquiring pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco in a trade. Via a tweet from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are also talking to the Seattle Mariners about LHP James Paxton. 

For the Yankees, this is par for the course — acquiring seemingly whomever they want, whenever they want, for whatever the price. Kluber is scheduled to earn $17 million in 2019, with that number most likely rising for the two-time Cy Young award winner the year after. Carrasco will be paid $9.75 million in 2019 after the Indians exercised the 31-year-old righty's club. He will be a free agent after next season.

For the Bronx Bombers, a team that finished 2018 with a $179 million payroll (according to Spotrac), they will have no problem assimilating Kluber and/or Carrasco to their financial fold. The Yankees are used to $200 million payrolls — as was the case in 2017 ($209 million), 2016 ($220 million) and 2015 ($222 million), according to Spotrac. 

They’re also not used to not winning it all — they last reached (and won) the World Series in 2009. 

By comparison, a $200 million payroll would have Indians brass jumping into Lake Erie. From 2011-2015, the team averaged a $77.2 million annual payroll. It rocketed up to nearly $106 million in 2016 (and almost a World Series ring), $132 million in 2017, and $143 million in 2018, according to Spotrac.

For the Indians, this is unchartered territory, which speaks as to why the Tribe may be looking to part ways with two players who combined for 37 wins this past regular season. 

Like it or not, the Indians still qualify as a “small market” team, especially when you throw this year’s World Series combatants, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers into the conversation. The “small market” Kansas City Royals had a two-year window of opportunity, and they delivered with their 2015 World Series title. 

For the most part, small market teams get left out of the Fall Classic. You’d have to go back to the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and the 2007 Colorado Rockies to find the last time, besides the Indians in 2016, a team with a non-eye-popping payroll was in the World Series. 

The Indians being swept in the 2018 ALDS by the Houston Astros could have signaled the end of this “run” for them. Sure, Francisco Lindor will still be here, as will Jose Ramirez. Sure, there could be a star in the making in either Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger or — wait for it — Triston McKenzie, the top prospect in the Indians’ farm system and 38th ranked prospect in all of baseball. 

The Indians had their chance, but unlike the Royals, the Tribe failed to take the crown. A game 7 that no one in this town will forget, a Rajai Davis home run that no one in this town will forget and a celebration by the Cubs players at Progressive Field after the final out is something no one in this town wants to ever relive. 

In my opinion, it’s hard to stand at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and beg to keep Kluber in town. When the Indians needed Kluber to be his usual lockdown pitcher in this year’s ALDS, he left the door wide open. He couldn’t finish five innings in the series-opener against the Astros, served up three home runs and was charged with four earned runs en route to an Indians loss. He also failed to find his grove back in 2017 against the Yankees, giving up nine earned runs in two outings. New York blasted four home runs in two games against Kluber, as they went on to win the series in the deciding fifth game at Progressive Field. 

Indians fans, at this point, want more than just an AL Central Division title. After three in a row, that’s old news. Where’s that deep postseason run? Where’s that elusive World Series championship that has evaded Cleveland since 1948?

I’m convinced that, especially with the lackluster teams in the AL Central, the Indians can win a fourth straight division title without Kluber and/or Carrasco. 

What about next year’s postseason, you ask? What about the two-time Cy Young award winner being the ace of a pitching staff fighting for a world championship?

The way Kluber pitched in the past few postseasons, turns out the Indians really didn’t have a postseason ace at all.