Report: Yankees eye Corey Kluber, James Paxton as Indians, Mariners reshuffle rosters for 2019
At least two American League clubs are reportedly considering significant roster reconfigurations this offseason, and the New York Yankees are lurking behind the scenes as they look to add top-end starting rotation weapons to the roster.
The Cleveland Indians, last year's Central division winners, and the Seattle Mariners, perennial postseason short-comers in the West, are both weighing the possibility of parting ways with some of their elite talent as both clubs look to reshuffle for the future.
The Indians are reportedly seeking ways to ease their payroll burdens after two disappointing postseason runs the last two years, while the Mariners are looking to "blow it up" entirely this offseason.
Like a great white shark sensing blood in the water from miles away, the Yankees front office has expressed interest in both of Cleveland and Seattle's No. 1 starters, namely two-time Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber, as well as hard-throwing lefty James Paxton.
If the asking price for Kluber is too high, the Indians would also consider dealing Carlos Carrasco and/or Trevor Bauer in potential trades as well, in addition to just about anyone else on the roster (outside of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez).
It's no secret that the Yankees are expected to be heavily involved in free agency this offseason, but there are no free agent starters hitting the market that could tilt the balance of a divisional race like a Kluber or Paxton, and that's exactly what the Bombers are hoping to do in 2019.
The Red Sox went all-in to secure the unique talents of Chris Sale, and they've just added their fourth World Series trophy this century to Boston's franchise mantle. Will the Yankees try to match their bitter rivals by acquiring an ace like Kluber or Paxton? Perhaps both?
REMAINING CONTRACT COMMITMENTS
Corey Kluber - Three years, $52.5 million (if 2020 & 2021 options exercised)
Carlos Carrasco - Two years, $19.3 million (if 2020 option exercised)
Trevor Bauer - Two arbitration years remaining (made $6.5 million in 2018)
James Paxton - Two arbitration years remaining (made $4.9 million in 2018)
Last year, Kluber posted his third season in the last five years with an ERA under 3.00, while leading all AL starters in innings pitched (215.0) and fewest walks per nine (1.4). He won the Cy Young in 2014 and 2017, and will likely finish among the top finalists again this year.
Paxton may not sport the same kind of hardware that an established ace like Kluber has collected over the years, but the 30-year-old southpaw known as "Big Maple" would offer the Yankees another Cy Young-caliber talent with huge velocity to supercharge New York's rotation. In 28 starts, Paxton went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA, including a 16-strikeout game and a no-hitter in back-to-back starts in early May.
Could former Indians prospects Clint Frazier or Justus Sheffield find themselves headed back to Ohio in a blockbuster two years after landing in the Bronx via the Andrew Miller deal? Will the Mariners be willing to move their cost-effective lefty ace for a package of young talent? These possibilities are far more realistic now than they were just days ago.
Yankee fans who have voiced enthusiasm for starting pitching help would surely be thrilled to bring in a true No. 1 arm such as Kluber or Paxton, bolstered by whichever middle-of-the-rotation depth pieces that may come in free agency.
Patrick Corbin, the 29-year-old former Diamondback pitcher, has been widely linked to the Yankees as a potential free agent landing place, along with veterans J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. Corbin's youth and career year in 2018 will certainly help him command lucrative offers from around the league, but is he the kind of arm that can help the Yankees reclaim the AL East from Boston next season?
Brian Cashman will have loads of critical decisions to make to try and bring his Yankees roster back to the World Series next year. It appeared as though free agency might not have all the answers to those questions, but with more teams finding reasons to trade away some of the best starting pitching talent in the game, the Yankees might soon have a slew of new possibilities to wrestle with.
Stay tuned for the latest Yankees news and developments as baseball's hot stove season kicks into high gear.