As Chicago Cubs rumors continue to flare up over the next couple of months, rest assured Cubbies Crib will have you covered 100% of the way. As things sit, the Cubs are pretty much everywhere in terms of the rumor mill.
Lately, the Cubs have been tied to veteran starting pitcher Corey Kluber as a potential back-of-the-rotation piece. Before we discuss the vitality of a signing such as this, let's go ahead and give Kluber his due and review the positives.
For one, Kluber spent pretty much all of 2019 sidelined with an elbow fracture. In 2020, Kluber didn't pitch. It wasn't until 2021 when he signed with the Yankees that he made his inevitable return, recording a 3.83 ERA in 80.0 IP over the course of 16 starts. Unfortunately, his 2021 was cut short as well with a shoulder strain that landed him on the 60-day IL. This season, Kluber had somewhat of a down year, for his standards, notching a 4.34 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays. To give you a sense of optimism, I think it's very much worth diving into more than just what the naked eye test showed.
In 2022, Kluber, on paper, had an ERA that was below league average for the first time since 2012 which was technically his rookie season. Sure, you can say Kluber had a 5.80 in 2019, but since that season was dramatically cut short to only 7 starts, I don't hold that much against him considering he missed out on a good 20-25 starts that year. Another thing to keep in mind when analyzing Kluber's 2022 season, in fact, you could say the same for the last two years, is the fact that he has pitched in the very competitive AL East.
Not to make excuses, but Kluber did have a rather challenging year schedule-wise this season. His numbers are what they are but certain games against incredibly competitive teams can sometimes do that to you. More often than not, Kluber was also a victim of bad luck. His FIP reveals a mark of 3.57. Therefore to record a 4.34 ERA, you can see how one could argue that he was clearly better than what shows on paper.
For one, Kluber pitched 164.0 innings during the season. That amount is higher than anybody on the Cubs last season by a decent margin. In 31 of Kluber's starts, he actually recorded 15 quality starts. In another 8 of those, he gave up four or more runs, and 6 of those were against competitive playoff-caliber teams. One of those was the non-competitive Red Sox, but they were a top-10 offense as well.
The point I'm making is that competition isn't quite as stiff in the NL Central and taking a flyer on Kluber has an extremely high ceiling for potential. I wouldn't expect him to get back to true ace form as he was 5-6 years ago, but regardless, after one down year, I don't think it's fair to automatically rule him out as somebody that can help a ball club compete.
For Example, Adam Wainwright struggled in his mid to late 30s and then now, in his 40s, has completely reinvented himself, finding major success with the St. Louis Cardinals in the process. The main thing for the Cubs to remember is that if they do pursue Kluber, he can not be looked at as the focal point of the rotation.
It's been said time and time again, the Cubs need a true ace at the front of their rotation. Somebody that can eat close to 200 innings and record an ERA under 3.00. A Carlos Rodon, a Justin Verlander who can probably be had on on a short 2-3 year-high AAV deal, perhaps even a Kodai Senga who possesses three plus pitches but is unproven in the MLB. Any of the three would be inserted directly to the front of the rotation and really need to be who the Cubs have circled at the top of their wish list before any offensive player.
Free Agent Corey Kluber would be a nice add for the Chicago Cubs but the team has to do more.
Imagining a rotation of Justin Verlander, Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Hayden Wesneski and Corey Kluber makes me feel confident that the Cubs are about to achieve success. The Cubs then have Kyle Hendricks and Keegan Thompson as bulk options out of the bullpen and multiple guys that have had recent succes who can spot start if necessary.
In closing, don't think the Cubs have the intention of underachieving this offseason just because of the Kluber rumors. He could potentially be a fantastic addition to a team that has openly stated it wants to have as much depth as possible. The Cubs know they will have to aim much higher than just Kluber if they want to compete in 2023.