Mulling if Corey Kluber should be a Met

One of the many targets of the Mets this offseason is Indians starter Corey Kluber, who is a terrific pitcher and has been for at least five years now. Kluber, who will turn 33 in April, is under contract for three more years, technically for 2019 and then options the next two seasons. But those options are very team-friendly and it’s a near guarantee that they will be exercised by whichever club he’s on.

MetsBlog’s Matthew Cerrone speculated on trading Brandon Nimmo and Andres Gimenez for Kluber. It’s unknown if this is enough to get the deal done or if it’s something the Mets would even consider doing. Having already dealt Jay Bruce, and with Yoenis Cespedes out for an undetermined length of time, trading Nimmo would be a huge risk on the Mets’ part. But if this would get the deal done, it’s something that the Mets would have to at least consider.

There are many more success stories of starting pitchers in their mid-30s than there are of second baseman in their late-30s. And Kluber would only be owed $40.5 million over three years, compared to the $120 million Robinson Cano is set to make the next five seasons. While still deciding whether or not to pull the trigger on this pretend deal, my overwhelming feeling is if this – or something close – is actually available, then this should have been Brodie Van Wagenen’s top priority.

Again, while still not completely sold on the trade, let’s dream a minute about a rotation where Kluber is the third starter and Zack Wheeler, the guy who finished 2018 11th in the National League in ERA, as the fourth starter. That would be pretty amazing. The Mets top four starters in this scenario combined for 22.6 fWAR last season. And that’s with Wheeler starting the year in the minors and Noah Syndergaard having two DL stints.

The question is if right now the Mets are in a position to trade offense for starting pitching, which is already a team strength. It’s reminiscent of 1975, when the Mets’ top three starters went a combined 52-34 but they couldn’t find anyone to be a useful fourth starter. So in the offseason, they acquired 1968 World Series hero Mickey Lolich. Now, there were other considerations for the Mets in making that trade, including some narrow-minded world view by the front office, but essentially they traded from a weakness to bolster a strength. The 1975 Mets finished ninth in the 12-team NL with a 3.99 runs per game average. They simply weren’t in a position to trade their best hitter.

Nimmo was the Mets’ best hitter in 2018. Now, you may feel he won’t repeat his season or you may feel that Michael Conforto will be even better. But we’re still talking about a guy who put up a 150 OPS+ last year and pre-arb guys with that type of production on their resume simply don’t grow on trees. For a comparison, Ronald Acuna Jr. put up a 144 OPS+ and Juan Soto had a 142 mark.

And in addition to Nimmo, the Mets would be parting with Gimenez, who depending on who you ask is either their top prospect or their number two guy. If you deal Gimenez, you better be sure that Amed Rosario is the long-term answer at shortstop. While the Mets have some intriguing shortstops in the low minors, trading Gimenez means that Rosario is the guy for the next three years. Recall that Rosario had a strong close to the season. Is that a glimpse of what’s to come or is it just the latest six-week hot streak?

Trading for Kluber would be a bold move. But the pain in the loss of Nimmo would be felt immediately, not four or more years down the road like with Jarred Kelenic. Perhaps that’s why Van Wagenen pursued Cano instead.

Meanwhile, I still can’t say if this is a good idea for the Mets or not.

25 comments for “Mulling if Corey Kluber should be a Met

  1. Chris F
    December 6, 2018 at 11:03 am

    I dont like it personally. I cant see SP as the pressing issue. We just witnessed one of the best seasons on the mound ever, and that didnt parlay into wins for deGrom or the team.

    At this point position players are far more important and the holes are bigger. If you take the upside on the SP in place, then we really dont have a need for losing trade chips on a front line starter with C, CF, RP, and possibly 3B in need of attn. We need right handed hitting, defense, speed.

    All I see would be furthering the imbalance of team structure that Alderson was so in favor of, and which might have multiple more years of effect unless Van Wheelindealin actively undoes it. No thanks.

  2. MattyMets
    December 6, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I don’t like the idea of using Nimmo as a trade chip, but I do think we need to be looking at starting pitchers. Maybe not the same priority as catcher, bullpen and outfield (more on that tomorrow) but two of our starters are entering their walk year so we have to think about 2020. Also given the injury histories, additional depth is a good idea.

  3. José
    December 6, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Big difference between Lolich and Kluber. Mick was old, fat, on a downward slide over the previous few seasons, and rode a motorcycle. Kluber is younger, has two CYAs and two 3rd place finishes (Mick finished 2nd & 3rd consecutive seasons). I don’t know if Kluber rides a motorbike.

    I can’t say if it makes sense straight up for Nimmo, but that rotation would bring a tear to my eye because if its beauty. Imagine Matz as #5 finally having the season everyone thinks he’s capable of.

    It’s not like 1989 and Frank Viola, for whom they traded half a pitching staff to obtain. It was an act of desperation, incited by Montreal picking up Langston, and didn’t pan out because they already had a really good staff down to #4 (Cone, Fernandez, Ojeda, Darling and Gooden on DL) even though Viola clocked 20W in 1990.

    That reminds me – I recall once reading that the reason teams like the Rockies, who occupy such an offensive ballpark, don’t succeed is not because they don’t have enough pitching, but because their hitting is insufficient; their ballpark makes their hitters look far better than they really are.

    Could an analogous statement be made about the current Mets, who live in a traditionally non-offensive BP, albeit not as extreme as The Rocks, and therefore they should go for broke with Kluber?

    • December 6, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      That’s an interesting question but the difference in the ballparks can’t be minimized.

      Last year, Citi Field had a one-year park factor of 89 for pitchers, which was more extreme than it had been recently. The year before it was 98. But the Rockies have a one-year park factor for hitters of 119. Meanwhile, the Dodgers had a park factor of 95 for hitting in 2018 but led the NL with 4.93 rpg. The Rockies were second with a 4.79 mark but once you factor in the environment, the Rockies weren’t close to the Dodgers in terms of strength of offense.

      • José
        December 6, 2018 at 2:03 pm

        Thank you for replying, and doing so in a manner that makes me think I just might not be the stupidest person who has ever visited this blog.

        OK, I’m exaggerating a bit – I have a masters degree in math. But thanks anyway, Brian.

  4. TJ
    December 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    With Nimmo being mentioned in all these trade talks, I am concerned by what the OF will look like. For what it is worth, having Bruce in the fold would have made Nimmo much more tradable.

    Anyhow, if my choice was between dealing Nimmo/Gimenez for Realmuto or Kluber, I would deal them for Kluber. Certainly the catching need is greater, but given the cost of pitching, the catcher is much less expensive to fill. However, money is an issue, as dealing Nimmo for either will require the addition of two OF. So, right now, Realmuto and or Kluber seem more like pipe dreams.

  5. Eric Bloom
    December 6, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Nimmo is the heart and soul of this team now. He should be considered untouchable.

  6. Mike Walczak
    December 6, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    I like the idea of Kluber being on the staff, but I dont like the idea of trading Nimmo and Gimenez for him. At least with a Realmuto deal, we add a big bat. A Kluber trade puts us down a big bat in a lineup that needs a big bat. It would be Conforto and who ? to play the outfield. I like Gimenez, he is my kind of player. He steals a lot of bases and he has a higher propensity to get on base than Rosario. So dont trade him.

  7. December 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    I don’t think a trade for Kluber makes much sense. The Mets need a better catcher, they need a better offensive solution to center field than Lagares and they need a solid lefty reliever. While that rotation would be amazing, it’s not the highest thing on my agenda.

  8. TexasGusCC
    December 6, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    When you can’t score runs, you take your best hitter all year away and add pitching. There, perfect! Fixed!

    • December 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      After the All-Star break, the Mets scored 313 runs, tied with the Rockies for fifth-best in the NL. Over their final 82 games, they averaged 4.4 runs per game – a tick above league average. Now, they wouldn’t be that way without Nimmo but they weren’t exactly hopeless after their May/June debacle when half the team was on the DL and the other half was slumping.

      https://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/split_stats_lg.cgi?full=1&params=half%7C2nd%20Half%7CNL%7C2018%7Cbat%7CAB%7C

      • Chris F
        December 6, 2018 at 2:42 pm

        The problem with this approach is that the season isnt “after the all-star break”. The season is 162 games. The fact is the Mets finished in the bottom third of every single major offensive measurement for the year. If you look at runs, its 12/15.

        If you wan to cherry pick the Mets, then to be fair it would be important to cherry pick the best 6 weeks of the other teams too.

        • December 6, 2018 at 4:07 pm

          Indeed. No doubt that all teams go through a phase where they either score a bunch or don’t score at all. I feel like I did that when I said the Mets were tied for 5th in the NL in runs after the break. Gave everyone an extended period although I’m sure it was fairer to some teams more than others.

          May and June happened for the Mets and I’m not pretending otherwise. But I don’t think that’s indicative of what their team is really like. Hopefully Jose Lobaton and Adrian Gonzalez won’t start any games for them this year. We shall see.

          • Chris F
            December 6, 2018 at 7:12 pm

            I get that and certainly understand the perspective. I guess part of that situation is the amount of injured players, and so you get Jose Lobaton and company. Im not betting on health at this point, especially given that the best OF we have is on the shelf for at least 3 months.

            As for A-gon, maybe thats Mr Cano???? 😉

          • TexasGusCC
            December 7, 2018 at 1:07 am

            Brian, ironically on yesterday’s Francessa show which had Jeffrey, Brodie and Mickey on non-stop for an hour and forty minutes, Callaway referenced the two catchers getting hurt on back to back days as a killer for the ball club. He said that Lobaron’s play really brought the club down offensively and defensively. But hey, he’s a veteran!

            I agree that the Mets offense wasn’t as bad it was last year. And while we’re hoping for improvement at third base, I don’t know that Nimmo or McNeil will repeat their heroics. My point though is that the rotation is well ahead of the lineup and I’d like to see a better catcher because of the three positions in flux, I feel McNeil and Frazier Just has to improve (but I’d bat Frazier eighth, so is it really ok?) but the catcher position bothers me. I just don’t see an improvement there. That’s the hole along with two relievers that I see.

            • December 7, 2018 at 8:11 am

              I’m glad to hear him say that.

              What gets me then is why they brought Lobaton back in September. I know he was on the 40-man but i would rather have cut him and brought up some 48th-round draft pick instead. No way he should have been allowed to wear their major league uniform after he was so awful earlier.

  9. MattyMets
    December 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    I would rather sign Grandal than trade for Realmuto. I don’t think there is a big enough talent gap between them to justify giving up one of our core players. Also, Realmuto might be cheaper in 2019 in arb 2 but if he keeps playing like this he’ll be asking for a lot in a contract. As I’ve said here before, this ain’t Johnny Bench we’re talking about. he’s a good catcher just entering his prime and there’s a dearth of those right now, but he’s not an elite catcher.

    • Chris F
      December 6, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      I agree overall. However, I think Realmuto is a special player. Losing major league talent to create a hole in one place just to fill another is not smart, and Im a huge “need a great catcher” believer.

      • TexasGusCC
        December 7, 2018 at 1:15 am

        +1

    • Mike Walczak
      December 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Realmuto is not elite, but it does also matter where he goes. Subtract him from Miami and if he goes to for whatever crazy reason to another team in the NL East, it just makes them stronger.

      I’d rather sign Grandal and sign a decent outfielder. They need to move fast, because these players are going to start going off the board. I am confident though that Van Wag’s has his strategy laid out with a bunch of what ifs

      We will probably see some action I’m the winter meetings.

    • TexasGusCC
      December 7, 2018 at 1:14 am

      Matt, plus signing Grandal will probably be a four year fix. Would you rather have two years of Realmuto or four of Grandal while losing less talent?

  10. December 6, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    This is a total financial planning move— kulber’s next 3 years versus extensions/agreements for Matz/Wheels/Noah. It’s an over-thought Rube Goldberg.

    • December 7, 2018 at 12:02 am

      After the lack of financial planning with the Cano acquisition, I welcome some thought in this area. And if Kluber can come anywhere close to what he’s done recently, he’s an absolute steal at that contract.

      • December 7, 2018 at 7:33 am

        If You’re “Win Now”, the core should include all of the SP’s who finished 2018. As for Kluber, Pitching must always be treated as a Need/Opportunity…. but the RH “swing bat/OF Bat” is a high need.

        Marwyn would be an excellent choice, and he provides flexibility and an asset if Ces comes back—He, McNeil have positional and Trade value.

        The Bullpen would look great with Andrew Miller as Andrew Miller.

        Thor for Bryant is the only mumbling I’ve heard that provides any framework to make sense of all of this. Then sign Marwyn, and Trade for Kluber.

  11. Bob
    December 7, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    Get owners (like Phillies and Yankees) who will cough up the cash necessary to strengthen the team. The old Phillies in the late 60s/70s used to trade one position player for another player to fill a hole but then created another hole. Sign Moustakas to play third, trade for Kluber, sign an outfielder Brantley of Pollock and sign Grandall. I like dreaming about it but ownership will never give the GM money to do it. (Ideally we sign Machado for short stop which would allow us to put Rosario in a trade package).

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