News broke Sunday that 2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber was traded to the Texas Rangers from Cleveland. After missing out on Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole, Ranger fans have been frustrated with the front office for not making more of an effort to put a contender together for the new stadium being built.
There were rumblings about interest in Kluber before, but nothing materialized until Sunday. The Rangers traded away pitcher Emmanuel Clase and center fielder Delino DeShields for the former Cy Young winner. Jon Daniels pulled off a blockbuster trade for a team that was desperate for a stud game changer, whether it was a hitter or pitcher. Kluber is obviously no longer in his prime, but his ceiling is much higher than what the Rangers already have in the majors.
Emmanuel Clase is a young flamethrower that was hyped up at the end of the 2019 season when he would consistently reach 100 MPH on the mound. In 21 games with Texas, he went 2-3 with a 2.31 ERA in just 23.1 innings pitched. He threw 253 cut fastballs in 2019, and EVERY SINGLE ONE was over 96 MPH. He has the makings of a good setup man or even a decent closing pitcher, but he didn’t last long enough here in Texas for the Rangers to find out if that was true.
Emmanuel Clase threw 253 cutters in 2019.
• 9 of them were between 96.0-96.9 mph.
• 22 of them were between 97.0-97.9 mph.
• 60 of them were between 98.0-98.9 mph.
• 98 of them were between 99.0-99.9 mph.
• 64 of them were between 100.0-101.4 mph.
All were above 96+ mph. pic.twitter.com/sX42Al6nlC
— Everything Cleveland (@everythingcle_) December 15, 2019
The other main piece of this trade was Delino DeShields, the Ranger’s presumptive starting center fielder. DeShields was a Rule 5 pick by Texas from Houston in 2014 after the Astros selected him in the 1st round in 2010. In DeShields 5 seasons with Texas, he has seen a ton of action, including postseason appearances in 2015 against the Blue Jays in the AL Division Series. In 539 games, he held a .246/.326/.342 slash line, which is good, but not great for what the Rangers wanted him to be.
DeShields’ ability to steal bases was key for his success in the big leagues too, as he racked up 106 steals, which is about 1 steal per 5 games played. Defensively, he was average with good speed, making him expendable. Scott Heineman and Danny Santana are set to spend more time and reps out in center field after DeShields’ departure.
What Does the Trade Mean for Texas?
Jon Daniels has been criticized, crucified, and everything but vandalized by Ranger fans across Texas for not giving “more effort” in attempts for the big fish in free agency. But in this case, more effort didn’t involve opening the checkbook as much as it meant working out a deal for one of the bigger needs for this team. Kluber is a great pitcher, but how much does he have left in the tank? Can he really be the ace this team so desperately needs?
During the 2019 season, Kluber experienced one of the worst injury-riddled seasons of his career. In May he suffered a forearm fracture on a comeback line drive. Originally it was supposed to sideline him for a month or two, but during a Triple-A rehab start, he was removed with an oblique injury, ultimately ending his season with Cleveland.
Kluber had 200 or more innings in his past 5 seasons, accumulating over 1,000 innings pitched, 1,228 strikeouts, and 83 wins in 160 starts in that span. As long as Kluber can stay healthy, he can bring stability to a rotation that has lacked in recent years.
Jon Daniels stepped his game up this offseason when it came to the pitching, as he signed Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to short term contracts as the likely 4th and 5th starters in the rotation behind Kluber, Mike Minor, and Lance Lynn. Even after solidifying the starting pitching, Daniels isn’t done just yet. This lineup still needs right-handed hitters in the order, as the majority are left-handed even after shipping Nomar Mazara off to the White Sox.
John Moore, a credentialed media member from Dallas Sports Nation had this to say about Jon Daniels and the rest of this offseason when I asked him about this trade and making more moves:
“This is an amazing move by the Rangers. But they aren’t done!! They need a right-handed bat. But they don’t necessarily have to get that bat at third base. Rangers are making moves and this is about to get fun. “
Moore clearly thinks Daniels has a move or two left up his sleeve to improve this team.
The Rangers have been in talks with Robinson Chirinos on a possible reunion, as his experience would be welcome to a young catching staff needing help with an experienced pitching staff. Chirinos played in Houston after his previous six seasons with Arlington. He is, as you may have guessed it, is also a right-handed hitter, which would be perfect for his team. At 35 years old he’s clearly past his prime, but this past season the Rangers tried to bring Jeff Mathis in to help in the same way, but with lesser results. Chirinos would represent a big upgrade at the position over what they currently have in Jose Trevino.
Maikel Franco is another name that has popped up in Ranger rumors as well. Franco played his entire six-season career in Philadelphia, playing mainly third base while racking up 110 doubles and 102 home runs in that span while hitting .249 at the plate. Now while that may not sound too enticing, in 2018 he hit a slash line of .270/.314/.467 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI.
Franco truggled in 2019, however, hitting .234 at the plate with just 17 home runs and 56 RBI. With the down year, he could be signed to a lesser deal since being non-tendered by the Phillies even though he’s just 27 years old. He’ll add great depth and become an immediate starter for this team looking for a corner infielder.
The offseason has taken a turn for the better, and if Daniels does indeed have some tricks up his sleeve, it’s only going to get better from here.