Texas Rangers: Looking back at the Corey Kluber trade

A year ago on December 15, the Texas Rangers acquired RHP Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians. How has each side fared since the trade was made?

Corey Kluber pitched in one game for the Texas Rangers in 2020.

That was a start back on July 26 in an interleague matchup at Globe Life Field against the Colorado Rockies.

In that game, Kluber threw just one inning and struck out one batter. He left the contest with a shoulder injury, which would later be diagnosed as a season-ending one.

One start, one inning, one strikeout. Perhaps the former AL Cy Young winner from 2014 and 2017 is a numerology guy?

While he certainly could be, facing just three batters all season long was not the outcome that Kluber or the Texas Rangers were anticipating after the two parties united following a 2019-20 Hot Stove season trade.

At the very least, he completed his tenure in a Rangers uniform with a 0.00 ERA!

Kluber is now expected to throw for teams in a showcase reportedly scheduled for January 2021 following the news that the veteran right-hander was cleared to proceed with a normal off-season routine.

But how did we even get to this point? Did the Cleveland Indians make out any better than the Texas Rangers in this trade? Let’s analyze how both teams have fared since the deal went down.

 

Rangers received: RHP Corey Kluber

Indians received: OF Delino DeShields and RHP Emmanuel Clase

 

The Texas Rangers did not win the Corey Kluber trade.

Texas thought they had a steal when they acquired Cleveland’s two-time AL Cy Young winner and former team ace for just two major league players in December 2019.

Kluber’s trade value had plummeted after a campaign in which he suffered a fracture in his forearm area.

Before that freak injury, the now 34-year-old had tossed just 35.2 innings in seven starts for the Indians, posting a subpar 5.80 ERA, but a more palatable 4.06 FIP and 9.6 strikeout per nine innings rate in that same span.

Still, these numbers were far below the ones Kluber had attained in 2018 when he posted a career high in innings pitched (215) and a career low in walks per nine innings rate (1.6) while generating a 2.89 ERA, 3.12 FIP and 150 ERA+ that year.

When the Rangers opted to pull the trigger on a Kluber deal in 2019, the hope was that the veteran right-hander would at least return to his 2018 form, if not the form that had made him one of the elite starters in all of baseball between 2014 and 2017.

Alas, this would not be the case.

As mentioned earlier, Kluber made just one start for Texas in 2020, exiting after facing a mere one-third of the Colorado Rockies lineup.

It was a disappointing year for the Texas Rangers’ rotation as a whole, a group that had high expectations heading into 2020.

This past season was especially discouraging for Kluber, who was hoping to re-establish himself after a down year in 2019.

The Rangers ultimately decided to decline their $18 million team option on the 34-year-old this offseason, instead buying him out for $1 million and allowing him to become a free agent.

That move effectively terminated Corey Kluber’s short and unsuccessful tenure as a Texas Ranger and cemented the team’s status as losers in this underwhelming trade.

The Cleveland Indians haven’t exactly won this trade, either.

Just as the Rangers thought they were receiving a quality starting pitcher in Corey Kluber, the Indians assumed they were acquiring two potentially important pieces to their run at a 2020 playoff spot.

Those players, outfielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase, had both proven their worth as mildly successful players for the Rangers in years prior.

DeShields, a Texas fan favorite, has never been much more than a below-average MLB player throughout his career (we didn’t take any joy in writing this, but it’s sadly true).

However, the 28-year-old has great speed and plays quality defense in center field, attributes that were very attractive to an Indians organization that boasts a decent track record with respect to player development.

DeShields was not great in 2020, though, hitting just .252 with a .628 OPS and 71 OPS+ in 37 games played and 107 at-bats.

His renowned speed tool was also rarely displayed in 2020, as DeShields stole just three bags for the Indians after stealing 20 or more in four out of his five seasons with the Texas Rangers.

DeShields was non-tendered by Cleveland this off-season, and is now a free agent.

The piece of more significant value that went back to The Land in the Corey Kluber deal, however, was fire-balling righty Emmanuel Clase.

Clase burst onto the scene as an electric 21-year-old reliever for the Texas Rangers in 2019.

In 23 innings pitched that season, the dynamic right-hander posted a 2.31 ERA and 21 strikeouts along with a 3.43 FIP and 1.11 WHIP.

Expected to be a key cog in Cleveland’s bullpen for 2020, Clase was suspended 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone, an infamous performance enhancing drug (PED).

The suspension kept the young righty out for all of last year’s campaign.

Cleveland recently reinstated Clase ahead of the 2021 season, where it is assumed he will play an important role as a late inning reliever for them.

With this in mind, it’s entirely possible the Indians could wind up receiving the longer end of the stick here should Clase serve in the role he was intended to.

To this point, though, the Corey Kluber for Delino DeShields and Emmanuel Clase trade executed in December 2019 has primarily been one to forget for both sides.