Just days after Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported that the Cleveland Indians are less motivated to trim payroll and trade starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi is reporting that trade talks for Kluber are ongoing, and that the Cincinnati Reds are one of at least four teams that are part of the conversation.
Sources: #Indians trade talks involving Corey Kluber have continued this week. The Cleveland front office is very thorough. #Dodgers, #Brewers, #Phillies, #Reds among the teams that have shown interest. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 19, 2018
We’ve discussed Kluber and what a trade package for him might look like a several times recently, but to provide a snappy refresher: Kluber is 32 years old, and is under three years of team control; each of which pays him $17-18 million in salary, and two of which are team options. He was worth 5.8 bWAR in 2018, and has posted at least that WAR total or better in four of the past five seasons, beginning with his breakout Cy Young year in 2014. Put simply, he is one of the game’s foremost aces, and his relatively team-friendly contract makes him one of the more valuable commodities in the sport.
With that in mind, the Indians’ interest in top prospects Nick Senzel and Taylor Trammell is no surprise. Is is also worth noting that, if the Reds are willing to move either of them, that would likely make them favorites to land the annual Cy Young contender.
It is safe to assume that other teams beyond the four mentioned above are interested in Kluber, but if those are the main contenders, it’s difficult to see any of the three non-Reds teams offering a package that would beat Cincinnati’s. The Brewers, for example, have just one prospect in MLB Pipeline’s top 100, and that is No. 30 2B Keston Hiura. Beyond that, Milwaukee’s best offer in a deal for Kluber might be a package built around 24-year-old relief dynamo Josh Hader, and it’s doubtful the Brewers would be willing to move on from his 15.8 K/9 and five years of team control to make that happen.
The Dodgers, similarly, would most likely not entertain trading RHP Walker Buehler. And while Phillies prospect Sixto Sanchez has been mentioned in trade talks before, he rates lower than both Senzel and Trammell on most prospect lists.
But while we’re speculating on whether or not other teams would move their best young players, it’s also worth debating whether it is in the Reds’ best interests to deal their own. The hype surrounding Senzel has only increased since he was drafted with the second-overall pick in 2016, and has like the kind of player around whom franchise turnarounds happen. Trammell, meanwhile, has rocketed up prospect lists since being selected in the same 2016 draft as Senzel, and can command outfield spots the Reds will be in dire need of in coming years.
If there’s anybody you trade young pieces like that for, however, it’s someone like Kluber. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the two-time Cy Young-winner gets traded this offseason, but as long as there’s a chance he might, the Reds should absolutely remain active in the conversation.