Playoff Reset: On to San Francisco and St. Louis

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The ALDS featured two sweeps. The NL still has a chance for one, as the Giants look to put away the Nats. Meanwhile, our only shot at a five game — or even a four game series resumes in St. Louis.

The Game:Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants, National League Division Series Game 3
The Time: 5:07 PM Eastern
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
The Channel: MLB Network
The Starters: Doug Fister vs. Madison Bumgarner
The Upshot: After Saturday evening’s marathon, both managers will want their starters to go deep into this one. And both managers have the starter to do it, too. Madison Bumgarner dominated the Pirates in the Wild Card Game and his presence puts the Giants in an excellent position to sweep. The last time Doug Fister faced the Giants in the postseason it was a tough-luck loss in a low-scoring Game 2 of the 2012 World Series. This should all be familiar to him then, as the combined score for the entire series so far is a mere 5-3 in favor of San Francisco.

The Game: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, National League Division Series Game 3
The Time: 9:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
The Channel: Fox Sports 1
The Starters: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. John Lackey
The Upshot: Here’s a deep thought: yesterday John Lackey said of his upcoming playoff start “I want to pitch well this time of year, but things I’ve done in the past aren’t going to help me tomorrow.” John Lackey won Game 6 of the 2013 World Series and Game 7 of the 2002 World Series among his 19 playoff appearances. If John Lackey of all people isn’t going to fall back on “playoff experience” when looking ahead to a pitching matchup, why should any of us? Going to that cliche is understandable, but it’s also less-than-helpful. The bigger question is probably the health and strength of Ryu’s left shoulder.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.