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Did the Padres just miss out on acquiring Corey Kluber?

Because it kind of feels like we did...

Corey Kluber will have a new address in 2020.
| Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

So first off, let me start with an apology. I know I’ve been MIA for a while now: I took over a new project at work, had to travel a bit, and I just haven’t been able to find the time to post my Prospect Forums like I usually do (I’m going to get back to it, I swear). With the Holidays coming up, I was going to extend my break until after the New Year, so I could focus on the family for a bit and enjoy the holidays back home in San Diego. And I was good with that plan.

And then I saw this headline:

Rangers acquire Corey Kluber from Indians.

Welp; so much for that plan.

If you’ve been around Gaslampball.com for a minute, you heard of Kluber, and not just because he’s been a very good pitcher for a number of years. He’s one of those guys, one of the guys who got away, traded when he was just a AA prospect for the Padres back in the day. He’s gone on to do great things since: multiple All-Star appearances, a pair of Cy Young awards, posted some strong post-season performances. He’s the Ace, with a capital A, that the Padres have been sorely lacking for a number of years, and desperately could’ve used during that time.

It’s not like the Padres haven’t been keeping tabs on their one-time prospect; the team supposedly looked into reacquiring Kluber last off-season. Since pitching in general, and good starting pitching in particular, is always in short supply, and several teams needing pitching this off-season, I assumed the Rangers gave up a respectable amount to acquire Kluber. So naturally, I had to check out the deal. Imagine my surprise when I saw what the trade consisted of:

Rangers get: RHP Corey Kluber.

Indians get: CF Delino DeShields; RHP Emmanuel Clase (Rangers #30 Prospect).

That’s it. That’s the whole deal. A former two-time Cy Young winner traded for a glove-first OF and the team’s #30 prospect with barely 20 Major League innings to his name.

Now granted, Kluber is coming off a year where he made only 7 starts, thanks to a broken forearm after getting hit by a come-backer on 01 May, and then suffering a strained oblique in August while on a rehab assignment. Even before the injury, Kluber looked far from the pitcher he used to be in those 7 starts. He gave up 44 hits in 35.2 IP, posted a 5.80 ERA, and racked up only 2.53 Ks per BB, the lowest mark in his career since his rookie season. Add in the fact that Kluber, who will turn 34 during the 2020 season, lost some more velocity off a fastball that was already pretty hittable, even in the best part of his career, and you’ve got a pitcher with some pretty noticeable red flags. Plus, he’s only got 1 year (plus a club option) remaining on his contract. Total it all up, and you can make a good case that a defensive OF and a team’s #30 prospect is all 1-2 years of Kluber could garner in a trade at this point in his career.

So why am I feeling like the Padres just missed out on an opportunity?

It’s no secret the Padres could use an upgrade in their rotation. Even if he’s no longer the Cy Young pitcher that he used to be, Kluber likely would have slotted in as the team’s #3 starter, a steady veteran presence that would allow the team to let their more precocious young arms marinate a little longer down in the minors. If he returned to form (a definite possibility, given the fact Kluber’s injury wasn’t structural), he’d be the unquestioned Ace, the anchor in a rotation full of high-ceiling arms. And it’s not like the team doesn’t have some options to generate a comparable or better deal: a package of OF/1B/DH Josh Naylor or one of minor league OFs Jorge Oña or Eddy Olivares, along with one of our many reliever/potential starters like Adrian Morejon/Michel Baez/Jacob Nix, just to throw out a few names? Two of those names don’t sound better than a trade package consisting of Deshields and Clase?

Look, I get the arguments against Kluber: he’s likely not (and will never again be) the pitcher he was before; he’s going to be 34 years old; his fastball, which barely reaches the low 90s, moved from pretty-hittable to stupid-hittable levels last year, etc. I get all that. My rational/logical side understands all that.

Just help me shake this feeling that the Padres could have acquired a player that would’ve made us a better team in 2020, and instead, we let him get away.

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Good Morning San Diego - September 30, 2022