MLB hot stove: Corey Kluber is highly coveted despite recent injury history; here are his 10 best fits

Earlier this week free agent and two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber showcased himself for interested teams at the Florida training facility where he works out in the offseason. Injuries limited Kluber to one inning last year and 36 2/3 innings the last two years combined. Some injuries (a shoulder injury in 2020) are more worrisome than others (comebacker broke his forearm in 2019).

Upward of two dozen teams attended Kluber’s workout and, by all accounts, scouts came away impressed. He showed good velocity on his fastball and good spin on his breaking pitches. Kluber looked so good that he could sign as soon as this weekend, and won’t have to schedule a second throwing session for scouts.

Kluber, 35 in April, is looking at a one-year “prove yourself” contract given his age and recent injury history. In 2018, his last full and healthy season, he threw an AL-leading 215 innings with a 2.89 ERA, and finished third in the Cy Young voting. The last two years didn’t go well (27 runs in 36 2/3 innings), and that’s why he’s only looking at a one-year contract.

Last offseason Rich Hill, a similar highly regarded veteran with a scary injury history, received a one-year contract worth $3 million guaranteed, with incentives tied to starts and innings that could’ve pushed the total value to $12.5 million. Kluber is likely looking at a similar contract. A low base salary with incentives that could push the total value perhaps close to the $18 million he would’ve earned in 2021 had the Rangers picked up his club option.

For what it’s worth, FanGraphs projections have Kluber (2.5 WAR) as the third best unsigned free agent starter, behind only Trevor Bauer (3.8 WAR) and Masahiro Tanaka (2.9 WAR). Those projections are based in part on good health and a return to form, which is a risky proposition. Still, it shows Kluber’s upside. He has pedigree and ability, and some team will gamble on it.

With that in mind, here are the 10 teams that could most use Kluber in 2021, ranked in order of how well he fits their needs and how well they fit what he’s likely seeking (chance to win, opportunity to claim a rotation spot and reestablish himself, etc.).

Ranking possible Kluber landing spots

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