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Looking for future members of the 3,000 hit club


Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki became the 30th member to join the 3,000 hit club when he tripled to right field at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon. Natually, that has led many to wonder who will become the next member of the club. And that’s easy: Adrian Beltre, who’s 37 years old. He has 2,878 career hits now and he’ll likely get another 50 hits before the season is over. Barring injury, a sudden massive decline in skill, or an abrupt retirement, Beltre gets there easily next year.

Beyond Beltre, Albert Pujols has 2,774 career hits. While he’s not the player he used to be, Pujols will simply need to average around 100 hits over the next two seasons. Health and playing time will be the biggest obstacles for him, but he’s under contract through 2021 earning close to $30 million annually each season.

Then there’s Miguel Cabrera, who has 2,459 career hits. He’s 33 years old and is still one of baseball’s very best hitters, batting .308 this season with a .929 OPS. Prior to last season, when he missed some time with an injury, Cabrera logged 190-plus hits in four consecutive seasons. Even if we account for a decline in skill as Cabrera progresses from his mid-thirties into his late-thirties, he almost certainly gets to 3,000 hits by 2019. He’s under contract through at least 2023, earning over $30 million annually on average. The biggest worry for Cabrera, as it is for any older player, is health.

Robinson Cano has a decent shot, currently with 2,146 hits. He’s averaged 185 hits per season from age 30 to 32 and will probably get to 190 total hits by the end of this season. If we account for age-related decline and give Cano credit for 165 hits per season from age 34 to 38, he would get to 3,000 in 2021.

Looking at the other members on the active hits leaderboard, no one else really stands out. Carlos Beltran has 2,570 hits but is 39 years old. Jimmy Rollins hasn’t played since June and has under 2,500 hits.

Players on track to be in the conversation about a decade from now are Andrew McCutchen (29 years old; 1,247 career hits), Jose Altuve (26; 985), Bryce Harper (23, 611) and Mike Trout (25, 868). [Edit: After reconsideration, I removed Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt from this list.]

There’s a reason only 30 players have joined the 3,000 hit club in about 150 years. For a player to accrue 3,000 hits, he must avoid serious injuries (and other reasons for missing large chunks of games, like being suspended), have the desire to have a long career, and stay well ahead of the aging curve. Knowing this only engenders further appreciation of what Suzuki did over a 16-year career in the major leagues.

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.