The Angels have already signed Tyler Anderson this offseason, but the team may not be done adding starting pitching just yet Corey Kluber are among the names still under consideration, reports Jon Heyman of The New York Post (Twitter link). Kluber is one of the more prominent arms still remaining on a depleted free agent list, and MLBTR ranked Kluber 48th on our ranking of the top 50 free agents of the winter.
Entering his age-37 season and what would be his 13th major league campaign, Kluber threw 164 innings with the Rays last year — an important number considering injuries limited the right-hander to just 116 2/3 innings overall from 2019- 21. In addition to his durability, Kluber also had the lowest walk rate (3.0%) of any pitcher in baseball who threw at least 70 innings, while posting a 4.34 ERA/3.85 SIERA and doing a very good job of limiting hard contact.
While control and soft contact were also big parts of Kluber’s skill set in his heyday as Cleveland’s ace, he has experienced a major drop in at-bats. Despite a pursuit percentage that was among the best in the game, Kluber’s 20.2% strikeout percentage was well below the league average. Kluber was never much of a power pitcher even in his prime, but his fastball velocity dropped to 88.9 mph and his once-lethal curveball was borderline below average in 2022.
Kluber still looks like he can be a positive contributor to a rotation, and with another year removed from the injuries that derailed his career, the righty might even be able to take things to a slightly higher level in 2023. The Rays took a little extra caution with Kluber last season, when he only twice pitched as many as seven innings and only hit the 90-pitch plateau in six of his 31 starts.
The Angels could continue this practice, as signing Kluber or another starter would seem to indicate that Anaheim is considering a return to a six-man rotation. The rotation currently lines up as Shohei OhtaniAnderson, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarezand Reid Detmersand a sixth pitcher would help keep everyone healthy (especially Ohtani, given his double workload as a hitter).
Kluber’s age and injury history limited him to one-year deals in each of the last two offseasons, when he signed with the Yankees for $11MM before the 2021 campaign and then $8MM last winter with the Rays. Such a deal would be in line with the Angels’ general preference for short-term, cheaper deals with starting pitchers, although the three-year, $39MM deal with Anderson (which also had draft compensation) represented a slight stretch outside the Halos’ usual comfort zone.
Since the Angels also haven’t exceeded the competitive balance cap since 2004, it’s notable that a Kluber contract in the $8-$11MM range would bring the team even closer to the CBT line. Roster Resource projects Los Angeles for a tax number of just under $220.3MM. However, Angels GM Perry Minasian has said ownership has not given him instructions to stay under the tax line, so the luxury tax may not be a big consideration this winter. While it’s more likely than not that the team will just exceed the threshold rather than blow past it (say, at $253MM and the first penalty level), the Angels have checked the market quite aggressively. In addition to Anderson, the Halos also signed Carlos Estevez and Brandon Drury in free agency, plus they swung trades to add Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela.