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Report: Padres ‘strong contender’ to acquire Corey Kluber

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In his latest article for MLB.com, Jon Morosi reports that the Padres are a “strong contender” to land starter Corey Kluber from the Indians. The Dodgers have been frequently linked to Kluber, but the Padres and Indians are currently engaged in trade talks. Morosi notes that the Phillies, Brewers, and Reds have also had trade talks with the Indians “to varying degrees.”

Kluber, 32, is a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner and would certainly provide a big boost to the Padres, who appear committed to contending after signing Eric Hosmer in February and Ian Kinsler last week. This past season, Kluber went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings. He finished third in Cy Young balloting behind Blake Snell and Justin Verlander.

Kluber will earn $17 million this season, then has two club options for the 2020-21 seasons at $17.5 million and $18 million, respectively, each with $1 million buyouts.

Per Morosi, the Indians would prefer major league-ready talent in return, so the Padres could dangle a combination of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges along with others. The Padres’ top-two prospects, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and MacKenzie Gore, are unlikely to be included in a deal involving Kluber.

Ramon Laureano’s suspension reduced from 6 games to 4

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland Athletics center fielder Ramon Laureano had a six-game suspension reduced to four games Friday after appealing the penalty for his role in a benches-clearing brawl with the rival Houston Astros.

Major League Baseball said a settlement had been reached and the A’s were informed of the decision. Laureano was set to begin the four-game suspension Friday night and will miss a three-game weekend Bay Bridge Series against the San Francisco Giants. After sitting out Monday at Arizona, he will be eligible to play Tuesday against the Diamondbacks.

Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron received a 20-game suspension and a fine Tuesday for his role in the fracas at Oakland last Sunday. Laureano also received a fine.

Cintron’s suspension is the longest for an on-field transgression in 15 years, since Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers received 20 games for his altercation with two cameramen in 2005.

Laureano was hit by a pitch from Humberto Castellanos with one out in the seventh inning of Oakland’s 7-2 victory – the third time he got hit in the series and the fifth time overall for an A’s batter. Houston players weren’t plunked at all. He pointed at Castellanos and began exchanging words with a gesturing Cintron then left first base, threw down his batting helmet and began sprinting toward the 41-year-old Cintron.

Astros catcher Dustin Garneau tackled Laureano before the A’s outfielder got to the hitting coach. Laureano is a former Astros player and the rival clubs have been the top two teams in the AL West the past two years. A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, another former Houston player, revealed the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in November to The Athletic.