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Report: Cubs showing interest in Yu Darvish

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The Cubs are still in the market for another starting pitcher to round out their rotation, and Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports that they have their sights set on free agent right-hander Yu Darvish. Darvish is expected to command one of the biggest contracts in free agency this offseason, however, and it doesn’t look like the Cubs have settled on a concrete offer as of yet.

The 31-year-old righty split his 2017 run between the Rangers and Dodgers following a midseason trade to Los Angeles. He posted a combined 3.5 fWAR for the teams and went 10-12 in 31 starts, complemented by a 3.86 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 10.1 SO/9 in 186 2/3 innings. More importantly, he paired his consistency on the mound with a bout of relative good health, missing just 10 days on the disabled list with a back injury and avoiding the shoulder and elbow problems that haunted him after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015.

While Darvish won’t come cheap, any team interested in signing him won’t have to relinquish a draft pick in order to do so. That could sweeten the deal for the Cubs, whose pursuit of fellow free agent Alex Cobb appears to have cooled considerably. Per Levine, both the “price and length” of a contract for Cobb was prohibitive, and it’s worth pointing out that the club would have had to throw in their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 in international bonus pool money with any potential offer.

As for Darvish, he seems to have his pick of teams to choose from: along with the Cubs, the Dodgers, Astros and Twins are all currently thought to be in on the right-hander.

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.